What To Make Of The Funded

I got a call from Adeo Ressi yesterday. I hadn’t talked to Adeo since he started The Funded so it was nice to hear from him. We talked a bit about The Funded and he was surprised that our firm Union Square Ventures hadn’t created a  "certified profile" on the The Funded. Honestly I didn’t know what one was. Now I do.

I’ve been watching The Funded since it started and have linked to it a number of times. I have a knee jerk reaction to like anything that makes the venture capital business more transparent. Rate your VC is certainly a step toward transparency.

But I am also troubled by sample bias. Last month, The Funded selected me as the number one VC. Come on. That cannot be true. I am flattered by it to some degree. But it bothers me. I didn’t see Mike Moritz on the list. I didn’t see any partners from Accel, Benchmark, Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia, Matrix, Greylock, Venrock, etc, etc. What I saw was a list of really terrific VCs, some of whom will be the superstars of VC someday.

I am also troubled by the list of top firms (that’s the list on the right). We are on that list. Again, I am flattered. But let’s step back and look at that list. There isn’t one brand name venture capital firm on that list. There are several that we invest with regularly and that I personally think are great firms, but there isn’t a limited partner in the world who would rate these eight firms as the best venture capital firms in the business.

And then let’s look at the number of votes that makes up each firm’s ranking.  The top two firms, Kepha and Mangrove, have 14 and 11 votes respectively. Our firm has 22. Is that enough votes to determine anything? What if I asked my entire portfolio to go vote at The Funded? We’d have 16 votes and they all be super high votes (at least I hope so).

And who exactly is voting and what do they know about these firms? Do any limited partners vote? They would be the best ones to vote on track record.

Do portfolio company CEOs vote? They would be the best ones to talk about  operating competence and execution assistance.

From looking at the comments, it seems that quite a few of the people using this site are entrepreneurs looking for money. It’s good to hear from them. If we are doing a bad job responding to opportunities that come in, if we are being obnoxious (as someone recently called me), then we need to hear that.

But if The Funded is going to be a resource we can rely on, it needs to have a much bigger sample size, it needs to be fairly balanced, and it needs to have some relationship to what we all know to be the truth. I have this gut instinct that it isn’t there yet.

So it begs the question, does The Funded have any traffic? Here’s an Alexa chart comparing The Funded to this blog.

I am very proud of this blog and work on it to make it the best it can be. But the truth is that it only has about 100,000 monthly uniques and about 150,000 page views per month. According to Alexa, The Funded has a third to half of that. And we have no idea how many of those monthly uniques take the time to vote, but using standard ratios, it’s certainly less than 10% of them and probably close to 1% of them.

So what to make of The Funded? Well its a good idea to bring some transparency to the VC business. But I am not sure The Funded is bringing transparency just yet. It’s bringing opinion but that opinion may not be a valid opinion. Yahoo stock message boards bring opinion to the world of stock investing. But does anyone rely on them? I sure hope not. The Funded is way better than Yahoo stock message boards, but it suffers from some of the same problems.

Here’s what Adeo needs to do to fix them

1) Have two tiers of voters. Certified and regular. Certified voters are people with real knowledge of the venture capital business. Included in that group would be long time limited partners in the venture capital business, entrepreneurs who have started three or more companies, all of which have been venture backed, and VC’s themselves. Get the certified voters to vote actively and regularly and weight their votes higher than regular voters.

2) Categorize the commenters. If someone has been funded by XYZ Ventures and they slam them, that’s more meaningful than someone slamming XYZ Ventures because they didn’t like the way they behaved in a pitch meeting. Make it easy for an entrepreneur to filter the comments  in any way they want to.

3) Get a lot more traffic and a lot more comments and a lot more votes. I think a firm should have to have at least 100 votes, with a significant number of them coming from portfolio company CEOs and limited partners, to be able to be on the list. The Funded needs to work hard to get more people who actually know something about the venture business to participate on the site.

I hope The Funded can become a reliable resource for entrepreneurs. Last week, one of our portfolio companies who is going out for a second round of funding, sent me an email about one of the VC firms he is talking to. He said, "they have a strong rating on The Funded". I replied, "so what". I hope that someday soon, I can say something different.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. TimWalker

    Good thoughts, Fred. To my mind, reaching critical mass vis-a-vis audience size is the key challenge for any site/service that uses social network features to serve a niche. If you ask for ratings of cars — well, lots of people buy cars, drive cars, and have basically informed opinions about cars. But the VC community, or, say, the community of owners of high-end fly-fishing equipment who spend much time online, isn’t nearly so big, ergo isn’t nearly so robust for polling purposes.To make it even more challenging for The Funded, it’s a Catch-22: the service isn’t nearly as useful without a bigger audience, but it’s less likely to get a bigger audience until its more useful. Good luck to them.

  2. vincentvw

    Hear hear! Nothing to add to that.

  3. Gilbert den Hertog

    Perhaps a voting, rating and commenting featured site only works well for mass audience subjects (i.e. books, movies). Then again, having quickly screened the site, I did like the more elaborative comments instead of the one liners such as: “total idiots, who don’t and never will get it”.Speaking of quality ratings and feedback, did you get a chance to read my pitch?

  4. Jackson Miller

    Isn’t this the same with any “reviews” site? Doesn’t Yelp have the same credibility and authority deficit?I am not saying The Funded is the end-all, but it seems like the point is for budding entrepreneurs to have a relatively safe place to help each other interact with a very secretive and intimidating market. Part of that is done through relative anonymity (i.e. your email is not stored with your login). Once you have “certified” users you have taken that away.

  5. Tom Summit

    I agree with you. It seems most of the voters are frustrated founders seeking money. One thing I do know from experience is that the VC’s now monitor their profiles and comments. So at minimum it has made them aware of what their perception is in the market place and may influence how they interact with the community.

  6. fnazeeri

    The VCs you mention are “great” from an LP point of view (great returns) and that’s only a component of how entrepreneurs rate funds/managers on TheFunded. For all I know (and I don’t) the folks you mentioned might be hard to work with, mean a-holes despite their returns. By way of another example, those guys might also be very unaccessible whereas you, via your blog, are quite accessible–something entrepreneurs love.Clearly there are a lot of issue with TF, but overall it’s a strong net benefit.

  7. ceonyc

    Startups tend to take on the personality of the founder… and Adeo publicly approaches this like he has a bone to pick with VCs. If he doesn’t stop that, then that’s all this site is ever going to be–a place to vent on people who turned you down or couldn’t help your failing business… with the occasional VC asking their portfolio to kiss up on the site.He needs to approach this as a way to make both sides happy. If I talked up Path 101’s ability to replace college career offices, do you think I’d really make any kind of headway in schools? Like it or not, VCs need to buy off on this, too, and if he keeps walking the anti-VC walk like he did at the last meetup, no one’s going to take him seriously.

  8. Andy Swan

    Not sure that sample size is so much the problem as sample quality. I could read through 500 Yahoo message board picks about a stock and get no advantage…..but if Howard Lindzon or Barry Ritholtz has a stong opinion, I only need to listen to one person.I think it would be valuable to have a list of companies that VC firms passed on….valuable to the limited partners and the entrepreneurs about to go pitch them. Are they letting more “big ones” get away than they catch? Are they never investing in something similar to what I have going? Etc.I also think that if thefunded could get away from “transparent” data and instead use a more proprietary algorithim that takes into account the factors you listed above through “anonymous verification”…..it would be much more valuable once trusted.All that said, I think the idea is a good one and I’m going to go fill out a few reviews right now.

  9. mfeinstein

    I always viewed The Funded as a measure of ‘customer service’, at least for the part of the VC job where the entrepreneurs are the customers. LPs are a different type of customer and will view the firms in a different light — returns, clear reporting, industry insights, help with diligence on other firms, co-investment opportunities, etc.I would like to see VCs do a better job with customer service. Most entrepreneurs I speak to have horrible experiences as VC ‘customers.’ In that light, I think that The Funded is valuable. The sample size is probably biased, but I think that most VCs who have gotten a bad review have also asked some of their CEOs to post good reviews to balance them out. Most product companies do the same thing on ratings sites…

  10. Niki Scevak

    Great points, but what kind of critical mass does it need? I am not sure of the subset of entrepreneurs/founders with some sort of dealings with the venture industry (pitch meeting) but it couldn’t be more than a few hundred thousand people?From an entrepreneur’s point of view, I’ve read the comments more in a reference check fashion, than sort-ordering on the top venture firms. The site has definitely been useful. It’s, as you say, far far far away from perfect, but at least what it is today is better than yesterday and that is all that should matter.

  11. michaelgalpert

    I dont think the funded can scale; inherently there will be more people who arent funded then are funded.Leading to more negative comments than positive comments. Even if you have a two tiered system, peoples opinions will be biased especially if they ever plan on raising money in the future.in the words/tweet of charlie odonell:”TheFunded: 1/2 people with an axe to grind and 1/2 people who are already funded kissing butt ” http://twitter.com/ceonyc/s

  12. Charlie Crystle

    better transparency for founders would be shared deal terms. I don’t care that much what a never-funded founder who can’t get a B-level VC meeting says about a C- VC. I do care how much a similar company raised, what the terms are, what the context of the terms is, etc. These deals should be public. The information investors have compared to what founders have is terrible, meaning they have just about all the negotiating power.I started http://www.mytermsheet.com, but sure don’t care to finish it–too busy running a company. Any takers? Adeo suggested he would add that, but likely not in time to help us, sadly…

  13. markslater

    i think you may have missed the point here. The site, or at least how i interpret its premise – is not to measure you guys based upon your LP returns, your major home-runs etc. The site (again as i interpret it) is there to measure you through the monocle of the entrepreneur, and through the solicitation and engagement process. Its almost like a therapy group for the dignity of the entrepreneur. Its disappointing to be rejected, but the site seems to want to focus on who was the A**ehole in the process. So the problem is – VC XYZ has top quartile performances – hit homeruns etc etc – but the GP (s) are still arrogant bunch of A**eholes! the correlation between a ‘top VC’ as measured by quantitative performance, and human beings – behaving badly is the big disconnect here, that both sides of this fence are struggling with, and that will need to be ‘connected’ if the site hopes to gain value.

    1. fredwilson

      I reject the notion that someone can be an asshole and a top performing vc at the same time. At least not for longFred

      1. Guest

        Besides, what exactly is the definition of an “asshole” and why should a Founder care? Performance is the only thing that should matter, and if there is need for something it is more data on performance. The point of starting a company is not to hang out with your VCs but to make it successful; if you hitch your wagon with losers, then you increase your chance of failure.By the way, I speak of experience, when I started my company everyone was giving me advice from everywhere, if The Funded existed back then it wouldn’t help me one bit, it would only have increased the noise. In retrospect, the only thing that would have helped would have been past performance, not only of the Funds but of the individual partners as well. Had I had that data, the company would have been in much better shape now.

  14. csertoglu

    Liquidity is a must for every marketplace and the funded is a marketplace for vc info…

  15. lawrence coburn

    It’s tough. The more certification / authentication you require from your rating community, the more barriers there are to participation. The Funded needs to find a way to get the VCs themselves to solicit feedback from the companies they see – much like my local coffee shop has “visit us on Yelp” stickers. That is easier said than done, given that most entrepreneurs get turned down for funding – which might skew the ratings towards the negative.

  16. Founding Member

    There are huge misconceptions with the site, and this post by Fred plays right into the misconceptions and ignorance.——————-MEMBERSHIP: The following statistics come from reviewing 1,000 sequential Membership applications (~ 10 days):— MEMBERSHIP APPLICATIONS:- 60% are Founders / CEOs- 25% are Senior Executives (President / CxO)- 8% are Limited Partners and Advisors- 5% are Academics / Students- 2% are Venture CapitalistsAbout 1/3 of all Membership Applications are accepted and, most approved applications are from the CEO’s. 78% of the CEO Members are, in fact, FUNDED:— CEO MEMBERS:- 22% are Un-funded on their first company- 34% are Funded looking for a later stage round- 32% are Experienced in Funded companies with multiple previous companies- 12% are Recognizable CEO’s that run Funded and well-known companiesFrankly, every time a VC says that the Membership is a bunch of upset and un-funded CEO’s, it sounds like sour grapes, speculation, and ignorance.——————-CONTENT: Over 70% of the content on TheFunded.com is hidden from public view, including the relationship of a Member to the venture firm that the Member reviews. Most reviews do not include any specific data in the Public portion, saving all details for the Private, Members-only portion. In addition, most reviews have a vibrant discussion that is also hidden from Public view, where Members debate facets of the post. Some posts have over 30 discussion points. Most importantly, venture firms themselves are not even rated that frequently any more. Most rating and reviews are provided for individual venture capitalists, which is also not seen by the Public.IMHO, to comment on TheFunded by glancing at the homepage as a free user is the ultimate example of “judging a book by the cover.” There is a video that shows about 40% of the Member-only features: http://www.revoltizer.com/m

    1. fredwilson

      AdeoI didn’t say that the site was a “a bunch of upset and un-funded CEO’s”I like what you are up to and was trying to suggest ways to make it more relevant to the people you are discussing on the site (VCs)If you want the funded to be taken seriously by VCs, you’d be well served to listen to instead of shooting the messengerFred

  17. ErikSchwartz

    – 22% are Un-funded on their first company- 34% are Funded looking for a later stage round- 32% are Experienced in Funded companies with multiple previous companies- 12% are Recognizable CEO’s that run Funded and well-known companiesI assume these numbers are self reported? I’m am skeptical of their accuracy.They don’t seem consistent with the reality of the marketplace. 80% of entrepreneurs are not VC funded (not even close), why would this site skew so heavily towards those who are in fact funded? 90% of companies NEVER get VC funding.

    1. Founding Member

      It seems unusual that the site skews toward funded CEO’s heavily. However, the site is called TheFunded.com, not TheUnFunded.com. Furthermore, the content only seems relevant to funded CEOs, as there is a lot of nuance behind the scenes in the Private areas – a discussion of Participation means nothing to a first time CEO without VC experience.

      1. ErikSchwartz

        It seems more likely that people lie about their funding status.

  18. ErikSchwartz

    FWIW, I like the site and read the site. But I take what it says with a grain of salt.

  19. Shivering Timbers

    Fred:I think you make some good point, but I think you’re also missing the point of The Funded. The Funded is discussing VC firms from the entrepreneur’s perspective, not from the perspective of Limiteds, other VCs, or whatever.It’s not perfect, but it is a valuable resource, since most of the existing information about VC funds is either about overall returns, or an “inside baseball” discussion mainly of interest to the funds themselves.There really is nowhere else you can go to get a handle on what it’s like to pitch a fund, have a given partner on your board, etc.P.S. I suspect you’re at the top of the rankings because you’re widely seen as one of the most open, approachable, and accessible VC partners out there. There are a lot of prominent VCs who have well-deserved reputations as jerks.

  20. Dan T

    I am a “member” and contribute to The Funded on an “irregular basis”. Key Point #1. I had to be admitted, which makes sense – so the audience is going to be limited. That is part of the value. Key Point #2. I don’t have a compelling reason to participate regularly for an extended period of time. It is useful mainly when raising capital.I don’t think Fred’s idea of what they ought to be are consistent with what they are trying to be (Shivering Timbers has it right). So, I think the first two suggestions are not a good fit for them.1) Have two tiers of voters. All the voters ARE certified. Your suggestion might dilute the quality of the scoring in the name of scale . .hello Yahoo stockboard garbage.2) Categorize the commenters. . . hello Yahoo stockboard garbage .as for the third suggestion:3) Get a lot more traffic and a lot more comments and a lot more votes.This is the question, not a suggestion. How do they get more certified members? and How do they get members to contribute more regularly?The answer may lie in creating more value for the entrepreneur, so that access is more regular. They seem to be heading that way with discussions related to legal areas and IP, for example. Maybe some linkage with something like fundingpost? Another approach might be to provide more value to the VC’s and give the VC’s more ways to contribute separately to the discussions – – the VC’s might have more of a ongoing regular interest in contributing – – which could draw more entrepreneurs in. Should they aggregate VC blogs?I read your site more regularly than the funded and I am their absolute target audience, so this is not going to be an easy problem to address. I am looking forward to the evolution.

  21. Mike

    It may be that getting through to Sequioa or to Mortiz himself is wee bit more difficult than the ones on the list. Maybe they are not as high up, which makes them by defacto more accessible.Fred too I agree that The Funded is more a resource for enterepreneurs and it doesn’t really matter if VCs take it seriously or not if the process is forthright, truthful, and useful to the entrepreneurs who are going thru this difficult funding cycle. If it’s truly CEO’s and/or founders etc. who are in the processes, seeking funding or have it, OR are in some ways dealing with VCs, this information is invaluable. And instead of telling them not to shoot the messenger (you) it sounds as though you are might be shooting the messenger’s medium, but again the target audience is not you, it’s entrepreneurs.There is definitely a set way that VCs tend to LIKE things done. – don’t contact too many VCs because they want to think they’re special and have the inside track (how inefficient is this for the entrepreneur, who should be able to put his company out there and let the VCs come to him – in reality shouldn’t he be focusing on his business and if someone’s interested it’s first come first serve?)- make sure to follow the trends for what they want to hear (Social Networking! Web2.0! they’re dead now! Cleantech! Green! are in and hot etc).- have you raised money before? oh good then you’re already 10 steps ahead of newbie down the corner- I’m right and you’re wrong – looking at an awful lot of bios of associates especially, who often take the first crack vetting the entrpreneur, many of them have NEVER run a company before- not answering entrepreneurs, or stringing them along (this happens ALllllllll the time)- being in the paypal mafia (joking)I have serious issues with the way the VC world works. I think they are in general are a) too trendy b) too insular/ old boys network c) too arrogant (not snotty, but think they know more than other people) and d) too unwiling to bend. Again back to the old adage that the first million is the hardest, the rest is much easier. How many companies seeking Series A get more than one term sheet (very few). They take what they can get whether it’s a good fit or not.TheFunded – correct me if I’m wrong!

  22. Anthony Kuhn

    Fred:I think your thoughts on TheFunded.com are right on. Adeo needs more transparency and voter fairness if he hopes to legitimize his site. Otherwise, it’s business as usual, with only the people holding strong opinions voicing them.Thanks for the thoughts, and I enjoyed reading the many cogent comments.Happy Friday!

  23. Mike

    Doe it make any sense to compare user traffic of an open /free to anyone to read blog with a closed, member accepted only site? Seems a rather pointless comparison.

  24. anon

    speaking of sample bias, Fred you seem really into Alexa numbers. From a market research perspective, their methodology is pretty suspect. Should always take their numbers with a grain of salt considering their recruitment methods.

    1. fredwilson

      I am not really into Alexa.In fact, I am on the board of Comscore and provided Comscore with their seedinvestment in 1999.All that said, Comscore and the other major tracking services don’t trackservices with really small audiencesfred

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