Posts from September 2008

Community Organization Is A Conservative Notion

I spent the afternoon and early evening at Meetup yesterday. I wish I could do that more often. Meetup is a small company with a big mission – they are empowering the creation of the community organizations of the 21st century. Their slogan is A Meetup Everywhere about Most Everything.

As I sat there watching the employees demonstrating all of the projects they are working on and in the process showcasing all these amazing meetups they’ve helped start (currently over 100,000 monthly meetups serving almost 2mm meetup attendees), I started thinking about community organizing and George Bush and Ronald Reagan.

In George Bush’s first debate with Al Gore, he famously said "my opponent will empower Washington, but my passion and my vision is to empower
Americans to be able to make decisions for themselves in their own

Ronald Reagan was characteristically more succinct and even stronger with "leave us alone."

Sadly George Bush has done nothing in the past eight years to live up to that brand of conservatism as this post called The Bush Betrayal from Cato Institute points out.

And Bush’s would be successors McCain and Palin have made attacking community organization part of their sick attack on Obama (which appears to be working quite well right now). Doug Rushkoff put it this way after watching Palin’s speech:

What is it they hate? Guiliani and Palin both made it pretty clear:
community organizing. Community organizing is energized from below.
From the periphery. It is the direction and facilitation of mass energy
towards productive and cooperative ends. It is about replacing conflict
with collaboration. It is the opposite of war; it is peace.

Last night, the Republican Convention made it clear they prefer war.
They see the world as a dangerous and terrible place. Like the fascist
leaders satirized in Starship Troopers, they say they believe it is
better to be on the offensive, taking the war to the people who might
wish us harm than playing defense. It is better to be an international
aggressor – a bulldog with lipstick – than led by the misguided notion
that attacking people itself makes the world a more dangerous place.

In their attack on community organizing – a word combination they
pretended they didn’t know what it meant – Giuliani and Palin revealed
their refusal to acknowledge the kinds of bottom-up processes through
which our society was built, and through which local communities can
begin to assert some authority over their schools, environments, and
economies. Without organized communities, you don’t get the reduction
in centralized government the Republicans pretend to be arguing for.

Sarah Palin, the barbie doll pit bull attack dog possibly President of our country said this in her speech:

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities

When I heard that line, I had that sick to my stomache feeling when I first saw our current President George Bush come onto the national scene. It was good. But it is wrong.

And I hope that true conservatives, who value smaller government, do it yourself, leave us alone will see through this bullshit that Palin and McCain are heaping on us.

John Heilemann wrote another of his brilliant political analysis pieces in the current issue of NY Magazine:

Palin herself, of course, derided Obama’s experience in her speech, in
particular his stint as a community organizer—which is no wonder, given
that occupation’s urban (read black, read poor, read black poor)

If McCain and Palin are the really the defender of conservative notions like citizen’s right to make decisions for themselves, and the rights of community groups like churches and other non government entities to empower people, they’d be celebrating community organization. But they only have one strategy which is to stick the knife in Obama and twist it and draw enough blood so that they win again. Heilemann always puts it best for me, so I’ll end with another quote from his NY Mag piece:

But there is a reason the Republicans keep falling back, again and
again, on such hoary tropes. The reason is that, from the age of Nixon
to the era of Lee Atwater to our current (yes, apparently, it’s not
dead yet) epoch of Rove, they have all too often worked. Us versus them
is a potent message—and one tailor-made to a candidate with the name
Barack Hussein Obama. Who, need it really be pointed out, is plainly
not like you.


If I Was A Marketing Person, I'd Love To Have This Job

I know that AVC is risking turning into a job board for Etsy. Just a few weeks ago, I posted about the VP Product job. Thanks to everyone who responded to that posting. We now have a bunch of great options for that position.

We are also looking for a VP of Marketing for Etsy. And if you think about the brand that Etsy has built over the past three years, you’ll know that this is a terrific opportunity for the right person. Etsy stands for so many wonderful things and it’s a brand that has enormous potential in the hands of the right person.

If you think you are that person, please click thru to this link and learn more about the position and put your hat in the ring.

#VC & Technology

What's Ailing Google's Stock Price?

Google was down big yesterday and is now retesting its lows from earlier this year.


I’ve been trading Google a bit this year and bought it around $500 and sold it around $560. Now with the stock approaching $400, I am thinking about making a bigger bet on it.

But it bugs me that the stock has been so weak on so little volume lately. It’s like nobody on wall street cares about Google anymore. At the same time, Google is acting very strategically toward one of the most important markets (information technology) in the world economy. As Umair Hague puts it:

that’s exactly what Google’s doing with Chrome – and then it’s using
those shared resources to create new markets, instead of contest old,
tapped-out ones, and build flexible, powerful edge competencies,
instead of rigid, stifling core competencies. Those are next-gen
economics – and it is those new economics that can only be tapped by a
better kind of business.

Google is a better kind of business, one that has extremely high operating leverage and one that operates a platform that others can build on top of. I find it a very attractive company to own.

And then there’s the issue of valuation. Last quarter Google had $1.7bn of operating cash flow. That’s ~$7bn per year. So Google trades at about 18-19x cash flow right now. That’s a big multiple of cash flow, but it’s not a ridiculous multiple. It all depends on what you think cash flow will grow at in the coming years. Given how many businesses that Google owns that it has not monetized in the least, I think there’s a lot of cash flow growth potential out there.

Alley Insider points to the fact that the government is readying an anti-trust case against Google and that would certainly be a negative for the stock. But I just can’t imagine the US government going after Google right now. It seems to me more of a threat to keep Yahoo!’s search traffic and inventory out of Google’s hands.

So my gut tells me that $400 is a good entry point for this stock and I am noodling about making a bigger bet on the stock if it gets there. It’s certainly not a momentum investor’s trade, but that’s not me anyway.

I’ll keep you all posted as I think this one through.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
#stocks#VC & Technology

Monetizing Internet Radio With Music

Doug Perlson, CEO of our portfolio company Targetspot, which offers a monetization service (like adwords for audio) for internet radio has penned an interesting and thought provoking column in Alley Insider today.

Anyone can go to Targetspot, record a 15 or 30 second radio spot, and run the campaign immediately on a large network of internet radio streams. Targetspot has been offering that service since the start of this year.

What Doug proposes in his column is something more. In addition to submitting a 15 or 30 second spot, bands, labels, managers, and other music industry participants could submit a full song to a system like Targetspot and that song would run as "paid inclusion". As Doug points out, this is not very different from how keyword marketing services work today:

We have seen a similar arrangement — of course not denigrated with the
term payola — work well in the financially successful and
user-friendly online advertising search field. In that case,
advertisers can easily place bids on search results, and target their
message directly to a discrete and highly specific audience. An
Internet radio “pay to play” advertising service could accomplish a
similar goal.

I’m curious to see what the reaction of the music industry is to an idea like this.

#My Music#VC & Technology

Getting To This Blog Has Gotten Harder

I suppose many of you know this. And I’d like to thank those of you who have reached out to me to tell me about these problems. Since I don’t read this blog in a feed reader and I don’t search for it, I was not initially aware of these problems. I am now and we are trying to fix them. Here’s what’s been happening:

1) When we moved from to, we messed up the 301 redirect. With typepad’s help and the help of Nathan, Andrew, and Eric, we got a working 301 redirect up and we are slowly getting our google juice back. But it’s been largely gone from this blog for the past 45 days. You cannot get here by searching for fredwilson, avc, or a vc, the three most popular search terms for this blog over the past five years. I am sorry about that and I am seeing signs that they are all coming back. Just this morning, all three terms got a front page result on google, the first time that’s happened. Prior to moving URLs, this blog was the first result for all three terms.

2) The primary feed for this blog got screwed up. I still am not entirely sure what happened with that because we switched blog URLs at almost the exact same time that Google/FeedBurner moved that feed over to their new Google powered service. You’ll note that if you ask for this blog’s feed now, you’ll get Those are one and the same URL and you do not need to update to the new URL in your feedreader. But for some reason, possibly related to the move of this blog’s domain, those URLs got messed up and the main feed was not updating for a while. I am told this has been fixed for the past several weeks so everyone who is subscribed to the main feed should be getting the updates in your feed reader. Please tell me if that is not the case.

2) The secondary feed for this blog which delivers only my vc/tech posts is still messed up and has not updated since early August. I just realized that this feed was messed up as well and we are working to fix it now.

These screwups have had an impact on readership but it’s not been terrible. Here are the google analytics stats on this blog for the month before and the month after switching domains:

30 days before:


30 days after:


Some of this drop is probably atrributable to august so maybe this blog lost 5-10% of its readership because of these screwups. And search traffic has declined from 35% of traffic to 27% of traffic during the same time.

When I look at the "reach" stat in feedburner which is the number of people who actually read the blog via a feedreader each day, I don’t see much of a decline in that number for the main feed, but a big drop in the number of people who read the vc/tech only posts. As I said, I am on that now and I’ll get it fixed.

Again, I am sorry for these screwups and we are working to get them fixed. Moving domains and moving feeds hasn’t gone as smoothly as I’d hoped but because so many of you are loyal readers, it’s likely to be a blip not a catastrophe.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
#VC & Technology

The "Feedization" Of The Web (continued)


Back in March 2006 I wrote a post about the "feedization of the web UI" where I observed that I was seeing more and more web UIs that reminded me of the news feeds that are common in the financial markets. I predicted that we’d see more of that in the coming years.

And as the NY Times Magazine points out today in a great piece by Clive Thompson:

He [Zuckerberg] developed something he called News Feed, a built-in service that
would actively broadcast changes in a user’s page to every one of his
or her friends. Students would no longer need to spend their time
zipping around to examine each friend’s page, checking to see if there
was any new information. Instead, they would just log into Facebook,
and News Feed would appear: a single page that — like a social gazette
from the 18th century — delivered a long list of up-to-the-minute
gossip about their friends, around the clock, all in one place. “A
stream of everything that’s going on in their lives,” as Zuckerberg put

The Facebook news feed appeared in September 2006, initially to outrage about "too much information", but as Clive Thompson tells in the Times, users got used to it and now it’s the heart of the Facebook service.

It’s also the heart of the twitter service, the friendfeed service, and a host of other services. And we’ve now got AIR clients like Twhirl that bring all these social feeds to the desktop and iPhone apps like Twinkle and Twitterific that bring them to the phone (please build Twitterific or Twinkle for bberry!).

This aggregation of information into a news feed has been adopted by many of the new web services that we get to see in our office every week. I’d say its the most common web UI/home page we see these days. Services like which launched with a more newspaper like front page a couple years ago have adopted the feed UI as well.

Here’s a screen shot of my radar this morning.


Radar is the Facebook News Feed for your neighborhood. What really excites me about this neighborhood feed is that all of the items in it are interesting and relevant to me. The tweet about the gaucamole at Los Dados was sent to my friend Alex Lines by someone I don’t know but will now find out who they are (just like twitter or facebook). The story about the Rag and Bone show is interesting because the Gotham Gal and our girls went to that show. The Spotted Pig and Magnolia are local haunts. And The Standard Hotel which is under construction looms large over our neighborhood.

As I said in my post in the spring of 2006,

Most people who have grown up designing magazines or newspapers
probably look at this user interface and think of it as ugly and boring but I think its super efficient

The web continues to grow and browsing is getting less and less efficient. Search was the first solution to that problem and it’s a huge part of the web experience now. Feeds are the second solution to that problem and I believe they will be an equally big part of the web experience. If you look at my google analytics data, you see that search drives only 29% of all visits to this blog and referring links drive over 40%.


And if you drill down into the referring link traffic, you see that of the top ten referring links to this blog, eight are feed oriented UIs (all but this blog and stumbleupon) and they drive almost 20% of the traffic to this blog.


So feeds are a powerful way for users to navigate the web and get to the information they need. I expect them to get more powerful over time as more users adopt them. Clearly you all are early adopters and the traffic that feeds are driving to this blog is much greater than a more mainstream website would experience.

But think about the Facebook generation. My kids are growing up with the news feed as their start page. Not Yahoo’s portal approach and NOT google’s search box approach. In time, its entirely possible that feeds will be more powerful than search.

So to all the people that say social nets can’t be monetized, just look hard at the feed and think of the possibilities. There’s money in them thar hills.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
#VC & Technology

NYC Real Estate - A Different World

I’ve been watching an apartment building go up at 19th Street and the West Side Highway for the past year. It’s along my regular bike ride path and also across the street from my gym at Chelsea Piers.

According to Curbed, it’s called 100 Eleventh Avenue and was designed by star architect Jean Nouvel. On the right is a picture I ganked from Curbed that shows you what 100 Eleventh Avenue will look like when it’s done.

As you can see, this is one seriously high end building. Here’s a link to the web site for 100 Eleventh Avenue. I couldn’t find any prices but based on what I know about that neighborhood, these apartments will sell for $3mm to $5mm each.

If you look at this picture just below which I took on my way out of the gym this morning, you’ll see that the building (which is still under construction) is right next to an institutional looking building on the southern corner of 20th and the west side highway.


That institutional building is the Bayview Correctional Facility, ie a medium security women’s prison.

NYC apartment living is full of stories about problems with neighbors. You always have to worry about the neighbor above or below you or next door making too much noise or being a grump. But when your neighbor is a prisoner in jail, it takes it to a whole new level.

I’m just fascinated by this project and am really curious to see how the sales process goes, particularly for the apartments adjacent to the prison. Hudson River views are harder and harder to come by these days and Chelsea is certainly a hot neighborhood and I am sure that these apartments will go quickly. That’s why NYC real estate is a different world.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday Afternoon Is Bad News Time

If you’ve been paying attention, the Fed likes to release bad news after the markets close on friday afternoon. The past couple weeks, they’ve announced the failures of small regional banks.

Well today, they announced something just a little bit bigger – the government bailout/takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two large mortgage finance guarantors. The markets have been expecting this for a while, but obviously not everyone was expecting it as their stock prices were $5.50 and $4 respectively when the market closed today. If everyone was expecting this, then those prices would have been a lot closer to zero.

This means the US taxpayers are now the guarantors of many of the mortgages that have been issued in recent years. Nobody really knows how much liability that the government/us taxpayers have taken on, but it’s certainly a huge number, way more than the savings and loan bailout of the late 80s.

I’ve been reading The Black Swan which talks about the impact of highly improbable events and how often they actually happen. Two years ago, if you had asked wall street insiders what the probability was of a bankruptcy of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they’d have most certainly said less than 1%. And yet that is basically what we’ve just witnessed. It’s not technically a bankruptcy, but the equity has been wiped out and the company has been taken over by the only entity that can guaranty the debt – the US govt/taxpayers.

Some will argue that this is really good news, that this marks the bottom of the bear market in real estate and the final capitulation from which we can now start moving higher. I don’t think so. The small regional banks that the Fed’s been letting go under the past couple weeks will continue to go under and I think we’ve got at least another six months to a year of bad news in the real estate/mortgage business before it’s all over.

However, I’ve also heard that the smart money that was short real estate and mortgages for the past couple years has mostly closed out those shorts and is starting to put together significant capital to buy mortgages (maybe from the us, the taxpayers, via Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – just as smart money did after the S&L bailout).

So, we are closer to the bottom than the top and although we’ve got more pain to work through, the smart money is starting to shift their posture.

How does this impact startup land and venture capital? Well from my vantage point, we’ve been largely spared for the past year. And I think we’ll muddle through this period better than many other sectors. But the capital markets are a mess and we should not expect a rosy exit environment any time soon. And we should expect to continue to get bad news on fridays after the market closes for a little while longer too.


Open Systems, Open Data, Transparency

Hank Williams points out that the front page of the Angelsoft website is really great. For those that don’t know Angelsoft is a free web service that many angel investors use to manage their deal flow. We’ve looked into using it to manage our deal flow and I wish we could use it, but we don’t currently.

Hank and his commenters mostly focus on the twittervision style map on the front page that shows the real time deal sumbmissions geographically. I agree that’s neat, but like twittervision, it’s a novelty that I don’t feel provides lasting value.

The underlying data, however, is really interesting. Angelsoft is showing the following data on their front page.

The Funnel of Submissions to Transactions


The Industry Breakdown


Deal Submissions Over Time


Now this is really useful data to both entrepreneurs and VCs and it’s not readily available for free anywhere that I know of. Angelsoft has even more data on this page.

If every VC and every angel investor used Angelsoft, or even if a represntative sample used Angelsoft, then we’d be able to see exactly what is going on in the venture market in real time (or near real time). But right now, the user base is heavily weighted toward angel investors and the data is skewed in that direction as this chart shows.


We don’t use Angelsoft because we have specific workflow issues in our firm that make it hard for us to use it. Instead we use a wiki. We used to use Jot until it was bought by Google and rendered basically unusable over the past year. We recently switched to Zoho and are quite happy with that choice right now.

I’ve said before that I’d love to integrate our wiki deal log with Crunchbase via their api to pull company information when they have it and to push company information to them when they don’t. I’d also love to push our deal information (with much of our firm specific info removed) into Angelsoft and other similar systems so that their data becomes better and richer and more meaningful.

The venture industry has been served over the years by a few proprietary databases of deal/transaction information. I’ve always refused to pay for that data because we basically know most of that information from being in our market every day. But the idea of collaborating with all the players in the market to build a completely open set of web services, built on open data, to provide full transparency would be a big step in the right direction.

I applaud David Rose and the Angelsoft team for being so open with their data and I applaud Crunchbase for their openness too. I hope others will follow in their footsteps.

#VC & Technology

Polisigh - Political Humor On Twitter

druce; from twitter and Fred Wilson (at my humble suggestion): @polisigh – the political humorbot – the future of the free world depends on us

Druce came up with the idea, a twitter follower picked the name, and whitney turned on the bot. If you enjoy good political humor, then start following polisigh on twitter.

And if you have good political jokes to share just follow polisigh and then post the jokes on twitter as follows:

@polisigh Juneau: a comedy about a Presidential election – and the bumps along the way

The joke will then be sent to all the people who follow polisigh

#Politics#VC & Technology