Posts from May 2006

Capitalism To The Rescue

I am an unabashed capitalist. I believe in the power of free markets. There are times when markets can fail us, but I think they are few and far between.

The subject of global warming is on everyone’s minds these days and it should be. It’s hard to argue with the facts concering the impact of greenhouse gases on climate change in the past 80 years.  This chart from Wikipedia gives us a pretty clear view of what is going on.


Our political system may get its act in gear at some point, but unfortunately our electorate has not been particularly interested in the inconvenient truths told by some of our candidates and have favored the convenient lies in recent years.

On the other hand our capital markets may well be up to the job. This morning I read about two large energy companies who are significant players in the coal powered energy business. One is investing heavily in the technology to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The other is not.

That story reminded me of another story that I read last week about the creation of a "carbon beta basket". That is a basket of stocks that features companies that burn a lot of carbon based fuels and I would assume produce a lot of greenhouse gases.

Investors who want to own economically sustainable companies and short companies that harm the environment can use these baskets to wager on the climate change game.

Many people might find that distateful, but I find it very encouraging.  If the CEO of the coal powered energy company who is investing heavily in new technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emission finds his stock rising as a result, he will continue to invest.  If the CEO of the coal powered energy company who is ignoring the issue finds his stock’s short position growing, he may decide its time to change his strategy.

I welcome the development of easy ways to trade the global warming issue.  Because I think capitalism can help us find a way out of this mess just as it got us into it.

#Politics#VC & Technology


  Playng Risk 
  Originally uploaded by fredwilson.

One of our favorite pastimes when we get out to our beach house is to get a game of Risk together.

Last night and this morning, Jessica, Josh, Josh’s friend Ben, and I played a long game of Risk.

I took the strategy of taking north america and heavily fortifying central america, greenland, and alaska.  That worked pretty well and I just sat back and accumulated armies while the kids went after each other.

They finally woke up to my strategy, made a peace treaty among themselves and went after me.

Kind of reminds me of my Yahoo! eBay post from yesterday.

#Photo of the Day

Yahoo! Extends Their Network

There has been lots of discussion about the deal announced yesterday between Yahoo! and eBay.  It’s a big deal in many ways and showcases the classic line about "the enemy of your enemy is your friend".

In my mind, based on a very cusory read of the outline of the deal, while it does seem to be a win/win, it strikes me as a much bigger win for Yahoo!.

The thing that struck me most about the deal is that this is the first time Yahoo! has sold banner inventory outside of their network. Yahoo! is becoming a third party banner network in addition to becoming a contextual ad network.

It’s a smart direction for them to take and starting off with eBay seems like a good way to go. I am not familiar with the specifics on the advertising deal, but if Yahoo! gets the right to sell banners throughout the eBay service, then they have just increased the size of their network by 33%, from 37bn page views per month to 50bn page views per month (Comscore Media Metrix data).

That seems to be quite a deal for Yahoo!.

#VC & Technology


On Wednesday night, The Gotham Gal and I went to see Shining City at the Manhattan Theater Club. It’s a wonderful play and features a commanding broadway debut from Oliver Platt. The soundtrack to the play is old Neil Young songs. As the final curtain call ended, a song came on that I haven’t heard in years – Comes A Time.

There was a time, back in college, where my friend and roomate Pete would play Comes A TIme every day. So yesterday morning I put on Comes A Time and went back 25 years.

Comes A Time sits betwen Decade and Rust Never Sleeps in Neil’s discography and is often overlooked. But it’s a wondferful record. The kind of record that sets a mood from the start and never loses it.

If you want some of that mood or want to go back 25 years, give it a listen.




#My Music

MySpace Coming On Strong In Video

A couple weeks ago I posted on how YouTube beat everyone else in video sharing.

And I said it was largely due to the ability to embed YouTube videos on MySpace, other social networks, and blogs.

Well if that is the reason, and I stand by my assertion, then it makes sense that MySpace video is coming on strong and is now in second place well ahead of Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL as this story in MediaPost suggests. The data comes from HitWise. I’d like to see the Media Metrix data which is the only tracking service that actually measures video streams.

#VC & Technology

El Duque!

Duque_1My favorite active major league player is El Duque, aka Orlando Hernandez.

I love his high leg kick, I love his big game mettle, I love his crazy breaking stuff, I love his life story, I love the mystery surrounding his age, and most of all I love his name.

This morning I woke up to the news that El Duque is now a Met!


#Photo of the Day

The Roundtrip Tour of Smartphones

Just over a year ago, I left Blackberry after being a loyal user for over 7 years.

It was a tough move for me because Blackberry had taught me how to be mobile.

The first Blackberry I got, back in 1998, was a life changing experience for me and I was very loyal to them as a result. Over the years, I used almost every Blackberry model they made.

For a number of reasons, some related to standardizing on Goodlink in our office, and some related to a curiosity about what else was out there, I switched to the Treo 650.

The Treo is a really good smartphone, probably the best one on the market.  The Gotham Gal switched along with me and she has stayed on the Treo and generally loves it.

But the Treo wasn’t a good solution for me. First, I am really rough on these devices. I drop them, I bang them around my desk, I use them constantly, and I put tons of software on them if I can.

I put so much stuff on my Treo that it would crash all the time (I mean every hour or so).  With my reader’s help, I diagnosed the problem and was able to fix it (sort of).  But when I broke my Treo for the third time and had to think about sending it back and getting a fourth one, I decided to see what else was on the market.

That led me to Windows Mobile and the MDA Vario. I did my diligence and asked my readers about the device before getting it.  Most said it was great, but a few said it wouldn’t work for me.

The naysayers were right. I lasted about a week on Windows Mobile.  Windows Mobile is going to get there, I am sure of it. But as of last winter it was too fat on a device that was too underpowered for me. I synched my 9800 contacts with the device and it stopped working and that was that. The MDA Vario went into my growing collection of failed mobile devices on my office  bookshelf.

So on the suggestions of my friend Brad Feld, I picked up a Sidekick II. It doesn’t really synch with Exchange so I had to kluge together a scheme to make it work for me.  Brad and his colleague Ross were particularly helpful to me in hacking together a way to make the Sidekick II work for me.

I used the Sidekick II for about five months. It is a tremendous device. I liked it way better than the Treo and the Vario. I love the keyboard.  I love the screen. I love the mail client, the AIM client, and the OS. Basically, it rocks.

And my kids would always ask to borrow it so they could play games or log onto AIM and chat with their friends. That never happened with any of my other smartphones.

But Sidekick II just doesn’t cut it for me as a business tool.  It would only let me keep 1000 contacts on it.  Every day there would be two or three email addresses and phone numbers that I needed (and never the same ones) that weren’t on the phone. If I deleted an email on the device, it would still be in my inbox.  Calendar additions made in the office weren’t instantly added to my Sidekick II.

It became an irritation over time.  So I decided to give the phone to Emily, my AIMaholic thirteen year old daughter, and go back to Blackberry.

I’ve been using the Blackberry 8700g (g is the T-Mobile version) for the past week. It’s like going back to the girlfriend you wish you’d never left. I am so happy.

I am sure its because I learned to be mobile on a blackberry and that’s where I developed all my habits. But Blackberry fits me like a glove.

And best of all, it comes with bluetooth so I can use my bluetooth headset again, this time with my beloved Blackberry.

That said, I feel greatly enriched by my yearlong tour of the smartphone market. Here is what I’ve learned.

Treo is the mass market smartphone.  It’s the best general purpose device.

Windows isn’t ready for prime time yet, but it will be.  Windows on the Treo is going to be the mainstream solution.

Sidekick is the killer solution for the next generation. They don’t want or need email. Sidekick is for them.

Blackberry is for me and everyone else who wants the killer mobile email solution and needs that over everything else.

That’s my view of the current state of play.

Of course, it will change over time. The Motorola Q may change things pretty quickly.  I saw it for the first time yesterday and its very slick.

But I am not leaving Blackberry to try it out. 

I spent a year away from Blackberry and I am not doing that again any time soon.

#VC & Technology

Cliche of The Week Feed

I’ve gotten pretty good feedback over the past year and a half on my cliche of the week posts.

About nine months ago, a reader asked if he could syndicate the posts and I said sure.

So I created a feed using delicious and I went back and tagged all of my cliche of the week posts in delicious and have been tagging them ever since.

I have never publicized this feed for some reason, but I think its time to do that.

So if you want to subscribe to these posts or syndicate these posts or do anything else with them (as long as I get attribution and you don’t mix them with porn or hate), feel free to do so.

Here is the feed.

You can also find the cliche of the week feed on the upper left sidebar along with the rest of my feeds.

#VC & Technology

VC Cliché of the Week

The hardest part of the VC business is knowing when to fold.

It’s a decision frought with emotion. The pain of admitting you made a mistake. The setback of a financial loss. Letting a group of people who have worked tirelessly for probably years know that you are shutting them down. I could go on and on. Just thinking about it is giving me agita.

But possibly the hardest part is actually making the decision to fold. Because "it’s always darkest right before the dawn".

I am an optimistic person.  And I have been involved in some spectacular turnarounds in my twenty years in the VC business. 

I remember Multex staring down a patent lawsuit, a failed sale transaction, and a empty bank account.  And Isaak pulled that one out.

I remember Bigfoot reeling from an acquisition that came with way too many liabilities, burning cash, the weekly calls to Silicon Valley Bank to keep the line open, and a last ditch financing that wouldn’t close.  And Al pulled that one out.

I remember Gurunet left for dead with no business model, no investor base, and no management team.  And Bob pulled that one out.

I remember Comscore watching its customer base disappear, facing a merger of two competitors who would shut it out of the audience measurement business, grappling with a huge real estate liability, and an envrionment when nobody wanted to put any more money up.  And Gian and Magid pulled that one out.

I’ll stop now, but I assure you that I could go on and on.

The venture business is full of these stories of willful entrepreneurs who cannot and will not fail. And I like to stand behind them if at all possible.  Because I have seen the pitch black darkness that comes before the dawn.  And I know that if you can get through that period, you will make it.

#VC & Technology

What Do Netroots Stand For?

I read John Heilemann’s long piece on the resurrection of Al Gore last night while Josh and I were watching Shaq and Dwyane Wade lead the Heat past Detroit. I am rooting for Miami to go all the way.

John paints a picture of a changed man (Gore) who was deeply affected by his painful loss in 2000. I haven’t witnessed the change myself (other than the great SNL speech), but I am certainly willing to give Al another look. He has always been a man who cared about the future and that’s my mantra.

John says about halfway through the article:

To begin with, unlike all but a handful of
Democrats, Gore, with his ties to the Netroots and his burgeoning personal
wealth, could readily raise the requisite funds to take on Mrs. Clinton.

That got me thinking, what do the Netroots stand for? I went to Wikipedia and learned a bit about how Netroots do their thing, but nothing about what they stand for. I am all for blogging, using the Internet to organize and fundraise, and stimulating debate. I guess that makes me a Netroots kind of person.

But to be honest, I don’t read Daily Kos and I am not a traditional "lefty".

I am a mix of centrist on fiscal issues, a passionate liberal on social issues, with a good dose of libertarian ideal thrown in.

I’d be attracted to a new political movement that rejects the failed liberalism of the mid 20th century and the failing conservatism of the late 20th century.  If the Netroots are that, count me in.  But I need to know more.