Posts from September 2006

Rock Is A Family Affair

Growing up, rock was something we had to ourselves. My parents didn’t listen to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones. They were ours.

Today, my kids walk out the door wearing a Pink Floyd Animals sweatshirt, a Rolling Stones "lips" shirt, and a Ramones black t-shirt. Part of it is that retro is cool in their crowd. But part of it is that they love the same music we do.

And The Gotham Gal and I are going to see Death Cab, The Raconteurs, and Ben Kweller with them. We love their music too.

Rock is a family affair. Jessica IMs me to send her the lastest M Ward record. Emily puts a Dani California ring tone on my blackberry. Josh plays War Pigs on his drum kit for me before he goes to bed. My niece Julia posts that she’s listening to music I know her parents must have turned her on to.

Tom Watson touched on this in his post about "boomer rock".

The boomer rockers are defying the gravitational pull of age in rock
and roll, changing the genre entirely; now it’s fun for the whole

I am not sure I am a boomer. At least I don’t think I am. But my rock idols growing up were boomers and many of them are still relevant. I have taken my kids to see Springsteen and the Stones (who my friend Andy is seeing tonite). The Who concert last week was a family affair for several of my friends. Same with Dylan and The Raconteurs which is coming up next month. Talk about Dylan and The Raconteuers. It’s the perfect family affair. Dylan for Dad, Jack White for Son.

I am not nearly as pessimistic as Bob Lefsetz is in this post he wrote today. He’s right about most of what he says, but I think he reaches the wrong conclusion. Rock isn’t counterculture anymore. That’s for sure. It’s culture now. And a family affair. And that’s a blessing I count every day.

#My Music

Jumping The Shark

Alex says that that I jumped the shark this morning with my VC Cliche of the Week post and that "the uniqueness and freshness has worn off".

I think his criticism of my cliche of the week post this morning is well deserved. It was a lackluster job on a topic that deserved better. But it really wasn’t a desperate stunt to encourage readers to come back (shark jumping). It was just a rushed job in the early morning so I could get it out and go on a bike ride with a friend and then get to work.

The latter comment that the uniqueness and freshness has worn off stings a bit more and I hope it’s not universally shared.

When blogging moves from a hobby to something more it’s a challenge. The "something more" is the networking platform that this blog provides for me and my and relationships. It’s a place where ideas, people, and technologies come together. And it’s value is largely dependent on a constant stream of posts, hopefully much better than the one this morning.

I don’t sweat losing a reader. That happens mutliple times a day. But I do sweat the challenge of making AVC as unique and fresh as it has always been. So please don’t be shy. I appreciate Alex’ candor and hope everyone is willing to share their thoughts as publicly as he did.

#VC & Technology

VC Cliché of the Week

You often hear entrepreneurs and VCs say that they want to "build a billion dollar company". It’s the goal of anyone serious in the company starting business.

But there are sveral ways people define "billion dollar company". Some want to build a company that gets taken out for a billion dollars or more. Others want to build a company that will trade in the public markets for a billion dollars. And some want to build a company with a billion dollars in revenues. A few brave souls want to build a company that has a billion dollars in profits.

In my experience, while everyone might say they are attempting to build a billion dollar company, very few will get there. In the late 1990s it was shockingly easy to build a company that would trade on the public markets for a billion dollars or more. We did it five or six times in less than three years with Geocities,, Starmedia, IXL, ITXC,  possibly Multex (I don’t recall it’s high water mark).

But as we wall learned, trading at a billion dollar market cap doesn’t always lead to a great outcome. Only Geocities ultimately cashed out north of a billion dollars. trades at a market cap of $1.4bn. The rest were sold for hundreds of millions or even went bust.

These days it seems almost impossible to get a company public and trading at a billion dollar market cap unless it is a very solid business. Some would argue that Vonage (which trades at just over a billion dollar market cap) is not a solid business. I am not entirely sure where I come out on that, but I do think there has been significant value creation in Vonage which was not true of some of the billion dollar public companies in the late 90s/2000.

Getting sold for a billion dollars (what Facebook wants right now) has been easier to get done. Skype did it last year. If you are very strategic and have built a business of some scale, the billion dollar exit is possible.

But building a company with a billion dollars in revenue or profits is much harder. That requires a lot of patience, committment, and a bit of luck.

There may be a billion dollar revenue company in our portfolio right now, but I don’t think I can tell you which one it might be. Some companies break out, catch a wave, ride it well, and get there. Most don’t. That’s why the venture capital business is a bit easier than being an entrepreneur. We get to take the portfolio approach and it’s more likely that we’ll catch a wave with one of our companies.

But if you are really in it to build a billion dollar company, then being an entrepreneur is the role to choose. The VCs, even the most active ones, are passengers along for the ride. The entrepreneur and the management team drives the car.

Building a billion dollar company is a great aspiration to have. We look for it in everyone we back. But we also recognize that few, if any, will get there. And it’s hardly a failure to sell out for hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact, its a huge success. So recognize that the billion dollar target is a stretch goal for everyone in the deal. And when it happens, recognize how special it is.

#VC & Technology

The Raconteurs

  The Raconteurs 
  Originally uploaded by thisismecl.

I went last night with Emily and Jessica to see The Raconteurs at Roseland Ballroom. We got there late because we had curriculum night at the kid’s school. First things first.

So we didn’t have the best view, we stood toward the back near the bar and the grils had to stretch their necks to see. This photo wasn’t taken by me but I do think it was from last night’s show based on what Jack and Brendan are wearing.

These guys rock and they are great. The highlights were the cover of Bowie’s It Ain’t Easy, the explosive version of Bang Bang My Baby Shot Me Down, and Broken Boy Soldiers.

They came back out and did Steady As She Goes for the first encore and then we bolted so the girls could get a good night’s sleep since it was a school night. I hope we didn’t miss something earth shattering.

Bang Bang My Baby Shot Me Down – The Raconteurs

#My Music#NYC

Web 2.0 Hits The Half Billion Investment Run Rate

  LOGO2.0 part I 
  Originally uploaded by Stabilo Boss.

The San Jose Mercury News had an article this past weekend with the latest VentureOne numbers. Apparently $260 milllion was invested in "web 2.0" companies in the first half of 2006, which means that the run rate for the year is $500 million.

It’s not clear to me how they define "web 2.0" but then it’s never clear how anyone defines "web 2.0".

I exchanged emails with the reporter, Constance Loizos, and I was quoted in the piece:

`Everyone jumps into the latest VC trends. That’s how the business
works, for better or worse,” said Fred Wilson, co-founder of Union
Square Ventures in New York.

Whenever I get interviewed, I always wonder why one quote gets chosen over the others. In the spirit of full disclosure, here is my entire email to Connie on the subject of the VentureOne numbers:

Hi connie

I didn’t see those numbers but it doesn’t surprise me

Everyone is jumping into the latest vc trend

That is how the business works, for better or worse

And I honestly don’t know if its better or worse

Probably a bit of both

What does ‘web 2.0’ mean?

I surely don’t know. It means ‘stuff that vcs want to invest in right now’ it seems

That said, we believe that lighweight web services built on top of commodity/open source infrastructure are very capital efficient and highly scalable businesses. We look for those that have a social and user contributed component and create network value

That’s a mouthful so ‘web 2.0’ is just a lot easier to say. I am sure others would define it very differently

Btw – our investment pace in this sector is about the same as it was last year, and the year before. We aren’t’ really fans of stepping on the gas.  We prefer consistent investment in the areas we know well year in and year out

I hope this is helpful


#VC & Technology

Is Adding Some Music to Your Video Legal?

This past weekend I posted a video on my blog about Fred water. I guess you could call it an advertisement for Fred water although I didn’t really think of it as an advertisement.

It generated a bunch of comments including this one from Rick:

Microsoft had to pay the Stones $10 million for Start Me Up for the Windows95 launch. If you put your commercial on YouTube, does that mean you don’t have to pay the copyright holders?

What Rick was referring to was the use of the Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil in the video. I doubt the maker of that Fred video licensed the use of that song.

Which points out that Bob Lefsetz is right when he says:

Nobody thinks it’s copyright infringement to sync music with video.

The other day I saw a 12 minute video that one of my companies made for their offsite. The CEO asked a bunch of people close to the company (customers, industry analysts, investors) to videotape themselves answering a set of questions. They each sent in their video and the company stitched it together. It was a great video. Very motivating. It started out with Queen’s We Will Rock You. Did they license that music? I doubt it. It was for a movie that would be shown once to a small group of senior execs at a company offsite.

People do this all the time. My daugther syncs music to every iMovie she’s ever made. It’s a piece of cake to do in iMovie.

I think the deal that Warner did with YouTube to license this kind of activity for all of their artists is the right idea. Because people are going to do it and as Bob points out, you can’t sue everyone on the web.

#VC & Technology

Introducing FastAVC

Possibly the single most common private email that I get regarding this blog is about the slow page load times and the ugly bling all over the sidebars (which are, of course, related). I must have gotten fifty to a hundred of such emails over the past six months.

And then Scott Heiferman wrote this last week on his weblog:

Fred Wilson’s blog is ugly. The words are wonderful, but is there any widget-badge-crap-bling-thing he WON’T put on it?

The answer to that last question is basically no. If I like a web service and want to integrate it with my blog, the "widget-badge-crap-bling-thing" is going up. That’s how I like it.

But I also recognize that many of you are tired of the slow page loads, the jarring rails, all sorts of javascript trying to grab your attention away from my posts.

I’ve been thinking about how to offer a "fast and clean" version of this blog for several months. I’ve been focused on my blog’s feed, because if you read my blog in a feed reader, you get the fast clean experience everyone seems to want.

And then I looked at my feed discovery page on FeedBurner and realized that it was pretty damn close to what people were asking for. The words and just the words.

But that wasn’t quite enough for me. I want to retain the basic look and feel of AVC.

Last spring Nick Denton showed me the new publishing system they are building and using at Gawker, code named ganja (gotta love code names that big companies won’t use).

The idea behind ganja is that Gawker’s bloggers can all blog in whatever blogging tool they like best. Ganja takes the feeds that come out of those tools and publishes them in a consistent look and feel. There’s a lot more to it, but I love the idea of breaking the content creation and content display systems into discrete parts and using them in a distributed manner.

So I’ve done the same thing with FastAVC. I’ve registered the name and currently it redirects to a new FeedBurner discovery page of my blog’s feed. The template has been edited to give it the look and feel of AVC, and you’ll see links to comment on the posts (back to AVC for that so there is only one comment system), and the familiar links on my FeedFlare.


The next thing I want to do is host the FastAVC template on my web server and route the feed through it which will allow me to avoid the redirect to FeedBurner. But it’s working fine using the redirect (and has been for several weeks now) and I wanted to let all of you know about it.

If you want to read this blog on the web but get fast load times and no bling, just bookmark and read my blog there instead.

Like most things I do with my blog, this is an experiment and a bet on where things are headed. I believe syndication of content is inevitable. I believe that readers should be able to consume my content wherever they prefer to, be it at,, on MyYahoo, Netvibes, MyTimes, or some other web based aggregation system, or in a feedreader.

I don’t believe in having one single place where people are forced to come to read my posts. So there are two now.

#Bling#VC & Technology

God Bless The Flaming Lips

I saw The Flaming Lips for the second time in one week last night with Jackson at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. I could see them every night and not get tired of the show.

If Willy Wonka was a band leader instead of a fictional chocolate maker, he’d be Wayne Coyle. Wayne understands that music is theater and he puts on a show, much of it the same night to night, but there are always those moments in a Flaming Lips show.

Last night, they gave out little laser key chains to the crowd before the show. They had some fun about half way through the set with a user generated laser light show (fast forward to 1:45 in the video if you want to just see the cool effect).

Then in an unplanned moment, Wayne saw some lasers on one of the balloons still bouncing around the crowd and asked everyone to shine a laser on it. This is the scene that unfolded:

They played basically the same set we saw at Austin City Limits last sunday plus some great encores. My favorite was this version of You Have To Be Joking off the Hit To Death record from the eary 90s which they closed the show with (and I’ll close this post with too). The intro is about 1:15mins if you want to skip it, but Wayne does explain what makes the Lips audience so special in the intro.

#My Music#NYC

Camera and Full Keyboard Please

Engadget has photos of the new Blackberry 8800 (got there via Jason Calacanis).

I like my 8700 and don’t really see anything in this phone to get me to upgrade.

I was tempted by the Pearl but The Gotham Gal and I tried that keyboard out with the 7100 and hated it.

What I want from Blackberry is a phone in the 8700/8800 form factor with a camera.

I’ve heard the reason that Blackberry won’t put a camera on these full keyboard phones is that the enterprise customers don’t want cameras on these phones.

Well I’ve got news for those enterprise customers – cameras are an excellent business tool. We shoot pictures of whiteboards in our office. We use pictures from our cameraphones on our blogs. We take screenshots with them, etc, etc.

So hopefully Blackberry will make a phone for the businessperson who values a camera, because I certainly want one.

#VC & Technology