Do You Ever Do Any Real Work?

That’s a question I used to get all of the time in the early days of this blog. I don’t get it so much anymore. Because slowly but surely people are wising up to the fact that blogging is work and its a very valuable use of my time

Take yesterday for example. I wrote a longish blog post on the Union Square Ventures blog about our most recent investment, Boxee. That post got picked up on techmeme where it ran for most of the day yesterday. I don’t yet know how many people visited that post yesterday but I am sure it was thousands of readers

About 75 of them left comments on the post asking for an invite to Boxee’s invite only alpha. I got a bunch more invite requests on this blog where I had linked to the USV blog post yesterday.

So this morning I spent an hour, between 5am and 6am, going through all of those comments, harvesting the email addresses from disqus, and inviting everyone to try out the boxee alpha.

That’s about 100 trials. Not that many when you think about it in the context of the 50,000 registered users of boxee.

But the time and energy I’ve put into this blog for the past five years has built a unique and very sophisticated audience. You are connectors and hubs of influence.

I know that one person out of the 100 I invited this morning will be incredibly impactful for boxee. It could be five people, it could be ten. Who knows?

But in the world of social media, word of mouth and word of link marketing, it is connectors and influencers like all of you that make the difference.

And that’s one of the main reasons I keep writing, commenting, discussing, and participating in blogs, tumblr, twitter, disqus, and the social media world at large.

Its about the "realest" work I do.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. JT

    Loved this post. Keep up the good “work.”

  2. Rohan

    Building Social Capital?

  3. Jamie

    Then there’s people like me, who went straight to Boxee to register for the Alpha. People like me are harder to track, but are also worth the price of blogging!

    1. Paul


  4. Wallen's

    Good point – blogging takes a lot of time, and if one gets an audience, as you did, it’s a valuable asset not only to spread word of mouth in a “push logic” but also to increase USV brand awareness hence, I imagine, investment opportunities via a “pull” mechanism

  5. Varun Narang

    Hi Fred,I love your blog! Its food for my brain. Thank you.Can you pl. send me an invite to Boxee? My email is [email protected]!Varun

    1. fredwilson

      Invite sent

      1. Guy Platt

        Me too please. I went straight to Boxee to register but the email I got implied that it might be many weeks before I get an invite.thanks Guy

        1. fredwilson

          Do you need an invite from me?

          1. Guy Platt


        2. Austin Bryan

          No guaranteeing you’ll get the same turnaround post-Techmeme hit, but I signed up for the alpha last week and got an invite the next day.

  6. KeithCowing

    This reminds me of a Jack Welch quote. When managers used to whine that they spent so much time coaching their staff that they never did any real work, he would say “That is your real work!”As an investor focused on web apps, social media, etc., this is real work. Even without the direct payoffs of exposure to your portfolio companies, a flow of new ideas, etc., you have to completely immerse yourself in this world to understand it. That’s what you’ve done and it’s pretty obvious that it works for you.

  7. andyswan

    More and more people are realizing that work and enjoyment are not mutually exclusive. Good for us!

  8. Chris

    Would you mind sending an invite to Boxee? [email protected]‘ve always found your blog very insightful.

  9. BobWarfield

    Love the article. I was struck by an odd connection. I read today that PC Magazine is shutting down. I speculate that it is because they weren’t doing the “realest” work of keeping the connectors and influencers interested. They let themselves be drawn into a commodity crowd. As Seth Godin would put it, they gave up their tribe for that crowd and it was a mistake.More on my blog:http://smoothspan.wordpress

  10. CC

    I WISH I could get up and start working at 5am! What time do you go to bed? 😛

    1. fredwilson

      Sometime between 10pm and midnight, rarely later than that

  11. jonsteinberg

    Fred- I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been making the following comment lately to business development, sales, and entrepreneur folks: “if you are not blogging, commenting, and tweeting, you are putting yourself at an unnecessary disadvantage. The online conversation is where so many relationships start that branch into real world opportunities.”

    1. kortina

      Exactly, Jon. I have so many friends who just don’t get it. They think the blog is about glory, or something. Twitter and blogging are pure biz dev / networking. And the beautiful thing is anyone that the ‘alumni network’ is open to anyone. It’s not like University where you need to get accepted, pay money, and spend 4 years there.Since we’re in tech, though, I wonder if we’re slightly biased. I mean, where are all the MBA’s, entrepreneurs, and engineers in nanotech, cleantech, etc? Are they on some other network, or just not online?

      1. jonsteinberg

        What’s nice is that its networking on the basis of ideas and thoughts. I’m sure it will move to other sectors. It’s really only been this year, for me at least, that the dialogue online has translated into significant real world relationships.

        1. kortina

          I also got into this game a bit late, about 1 year ago to date. Blogging /twitter is such a huge part of work now that I can’t understand how I everdid not do this stuff.

      2. fredwilson

        They are busy doing real work

        1. kortina

          Good answer.

  12. Banet

    I think every bit of work you put into this blog is some of the most important work you do. You’ve built a reputation for you and your company that brings a lot of deals to your door.Not every dollar is equal. I know of at least 2 cases where a company chose you — and your less “generous” offer — specifically because of the reputation you’ve built.Peter Steinberghttp://www.FlashlightWorthy…Recommending books so good, they’ll keep you up past your bedtime. 😉

    1. fredwilson

      I am generous with my time, not our investors money 😉

      1. Banet

        Ah, but you’ve heard the expression “time is money”? Well, it can have more than one meaning.I’ve seen enough companies fail and a select handful thrive to know that if I needed investment I much rather have 1) X dollars at a Y valuation from a highly thoughtful, connected, and involved investor (such as you) than 2) 1.5X dollars at a 1.5Y valuation from someone who’s just writing a check.After all, the first investor increases my odds of growing my valuation to 10Y while the second investor increases my odds of ending up at a valuation of zero.

        1. fredwilson

          YupAnd we work really hard on delivering on that promise

  13. Phil Glockner

    I put in my email for a Boxee trial and I didn’t even think to ask you for one, Fred! Haha. My email address is [email protected] .. I’d like an invite please.

    1. fredwilson

      I just sent you one

      1. Phil Glockner

        Muchas gracias!

  14. abrudtkuhl

    Are you still handing out invites? I asked on Twitter after your tweet yesterday!

    1. fredwilson

      I just sent you oneIt’s way easier for me to do the invites via disqus comments because the email is right there for the cut and paste

  15. kenberger

    Must have also been a lot of work to reply ‘invite sent’ to almost every request, when clearly each person will know that fact anyway when they get the invite.Hopefully the big comments total raises seo, and certainly the personal touch should help the rate of actual install (though I think this is a great offering and will get great uptake anyway)

    1. fredwilson

      That was my work flowIt allows me to go down the entire comment thread and make sure I got everyone

  16. Max Chafkin

    Hey Fred,I’d love to check out the service. Can you send me an invite too? mchafkin at inc dot comthanks!Max

    1. fredwilson

      Max – I just sent you one

  17. maxkalehoff

    Fred,Another example of the benefit of blogging….I got to know you, then you introduced me to David Kidder, now I work at Clickable. Thanks for leading leading by example and inspiring me and my work. Max

    1. fredwilson

      Etsy has just hired two senior hires that found out about the positions on this blogI just love that!

  18. lawrence coburn

    It’s hard work to A) come up with something to blog about every day; B) to actually write the post. It’s an amazing accomplishment that you’ve been able to keep it up for a few years now, and keep the quality so high. Keep it up!

  19. Vaibhav Domkundwar

    I totally agree with you. I can say for myself and many of my entrepreneur friends that you blog has been a really good source of true insight and in many ways it creates an opinion of you as a person, as a VC and USV as a VC firm – all good of course and I can imagine that it must be truly valuable for you and USV, besides the instantly credibility and distribution that the companies get, when you write about them here.

  20. GlennKelman

    This blog gives USV enormous credibility with entrepreneurs. Beyond the exposure and credibility the blog offers portfolio companies, it also lets entrepreneurs evaluating USV see how Fred thinks, and to imagine how he would contribute in board meetings. Otherwise, it can be hard to gauge a VC from one or two meetings, especially because the entrepreneur is usually selling his buns off in those meetings.Redfin got very lucky with its VCs — they are awesome — so I’m not complaining one bit. But when you take on someone new, it helps if you can see how they think, and how hard they work.

  21. akersmc

    Can i get an invite too? 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      Invite sent

  22. Raju

    Can I get an invite?

    1. fredwilson

      Invite sent

  23. RacerRick

    Plus each person who signs up for Boxee will probably tell 2-3 people about it (especially if they like it).

  24. davebonobos

    Blogging as customer engagement, and thus, legitimate “work,” resonates strongly with me. It enables a perpetual conversation with those who matter to you. It’s public thinking and expression, which (usually) causes smarter discourse.Our company makes a physical product, but we sell it exclusively online. Our website is our retail store, our blog is our feet on the street. We’re small now, but I expect as we grow, our senior team will continue to blog frequently about issues fun and serious. It’s part of a larger trend of information democratization that will help push businesses (in Fred’s case, the personal/business hybrid model) to increase their transparency and responsiveness to their “customers”, be they users, readers or consumers.There is nothing more fun than having our business grow faster every month because of satisfied customers acting as positive net promoters of our product. Word of mouth can be our best, or our worst form of marketing. Our blog is one of the best tools we have to help ensure that we get the former and not the latter.

  25. Chipotle

    As I lay on the couch suffering with the flu, I’m wishing I could stream shows from Hulu through my AppleTV. I would love an invite sdclark5@gmailcom Thanks.Chip

    1. fredwilson

      I just sent you oneI hope you like it and I hope you feel better

      1. Chipotle

        Thanks Fred. I’m going to hack my Apple TV this weekend.I’ve been listening to the new Blitzen Trapper record, Furr. It has a few very strong tracks (Furr, Black River Killer) They obviously listened to a lot of their parents records (Dylan, Beatles, Young etc.)Thanks again.

  26. PG

    ha, as i was reading the “invite for me please” comments on the boxee post last night, i was wondering whether u would have an assistant or intern harvest the email and followup but then you come out with this…you’re solid. well done. I have no startup plans but if i ever have, i’ll come see you.

  27. austinhill

    I liked this post Fred. I’m amazed by the consistency & volume of your posting, but it reminds me very much of a phrase I’ve been hearing Howard Linzdon use which is Social Leverage. I know a lot of VCs apply social leverage in assisting with hiring, biz dev and back room operations – but the ability to also use it on behalf of your companies on the Net is a great asset.

  28. Venkat

    I field that question often, as well. I find it a laughably naive question on many levels. A lot of people still seem to have a mental model of work as farming or factory labor. Among the roles I’ve heard dismissed as “not real work” are — any sort of middle management, HR, marketing, writing. Even programming, by hardware jocks who still don’t get that programming now constitutes 90% of the effort in robotics.As a blogger and a technology project manager with bizdev responsibilities, I have done (by some people’s views) none of the “real” work I was trained for (control engineering… hardware experiments and Matlab programming) for over a year now. It has also been the hardest year of my life. My individual-contributor-techie life was a cakewalk by comparison.I agree, blogging is about the realest work I do as well.

  29. Geoff

    I’m really impressed by the range and quality of your output Fred and I’m certain if I had a fundable idea I know on whose door I would be knocking. Your blogging & speedy response to comments is truly inspirational. May it long continue!

  30. howard lindzon

    actually its still pretty lazy

  31. howard lindzon

    social leverage baby…was just kidding abiut you being lazy. stop giving all the free tips over here

    1. simondodson

      ‘stop giving all the free tips over here’ hahahato true

  32. Dan Sweet

    Fred,I’d like an invite. Thanksdsweet2000 at gmail dot com

    1. fredwilson

      Invite sent

  33. liza

    oh, duh! i didn’t even notice it was you who wrote that Boxee article. can you hit me up with an invite? please, please, pretty please 🙂 just DM me through Twitter : Lurvs ya!

    1. fredwilson

      Invite sent

  34. simondodson

    i actuallyt reblogged the boxee post … great piece of s/ware

  35. publicspend

    Fred – Not only is it real work, it is actually pretty hard work. For it to be worthwhile you have to put a lot of time and focus into social media. Just like anything else it involves planning, thought and great execution. It takes alot of patience but with effort the pay back can be phenomenal. Oh, and at the same time you have to do your day job…

  36. daric

    Thanks for continuing to show us how it’s done.Say, could I get a boxee invite too?

    1. fredwilson

      Invite sent

  37. dick costolo

    wait, you have a job?

    1. fredwilson

      Yeah, it’s called hanging out with goofs like you

  38. Dorian Benkoil

    You’re such a flatterer. We can’t resist.OK, Happy to try out Boxee. Please send invite?

  39. oracleoftexas


  40. monkeyleader

    your review was cracking and prompted me to request an invite via boxee themselves, but if you have any more spare ?nigelcooke at hotmail dot com !cheers,Nige

    1. fredwilson

      Sure, I just sent one

      1. rah33ls

        Fred, i signed up on the boxee site, but i haven’t received a response from them yet. So, if there are still some invites up for grabs — it would be muchos appreciated.rah33ls at gmail dot com

        1. fredwilson

          Just sent one

  41. jmcaddell

    Fred, you successfully lured a new Disqus subscriber. 🙂

    1. fredwilson


      1. Nikolay Kolev

        Fred, can I please have a Boxee invite, too? My email is me at my first name dot com. Thank you!

        1. fredwilson

          Invite sent

          1. Nikolay Kolev

            Thanks, Fred! I got it, I set up my account, and I’m gonna install the software in a bit. It looks great so far.

  42. Ben

    You don’t hear it as much because the wave of OLD & CRUSTY is nearly gone. As the O&C leave the upper echelons of businesses to “retire” (aka. fail big for the package), in comes those who have been “waiting” for their chance to set the tone right.Give me any company whose product/business is in the shitter…Join that product/business with someone who understands what it means to be “REAL” with customers and a market, and within a small amount of time you’ll see a great turnaround.I am a big believer in this because it takes “real work” now a days to run a company. Sitting at the top acting like you are “real” with your market is the quickest way to the bottom.I say rush the O&C’s out as quickly as possible and lets start doing “REAL WORK” again.Thanks for letting me get that out Fred.

    1. fredwilson

      Any time 🙂

  43. vruz

    hah, it’s funny you asked this question to me once 🙂

    1. fredwilson


      1. vruz

        not a question exactly, but rather an expression of surprise how did I get the time to ‘get anything done’ aside from catching up with blogs and such 🙂

        1. fredwilson

          Oh yesYou are a wonder in that regard

  44. Jimmy Gambier

    Hi Fred,Could I get an invite as well. I’ve used a hodgepodge of Netflix, Hulu and YouTube as well and looking forward to a unified experience:[email protected]

    1. fredwilson

      Just sent one

  45. Guest

    Here’s what’s cracking me up. Venture Capital is on the very short list of occupations, where you can judge performance quickly and precisely. Click on this link, for example:…Union Square Ventures2004 has returned 35.7% per year to their investors. That’s a monstrous return on investment. Take a good look and compare it to other funds. Whatever Mr. Wilson is doing is obviously working. There are not many occupations like this (100 meters dash sprinters is the only one I can think of right now) , where a simple look at a single number gives you the whole picture. It is extremely silly for someone to argue the work ethics, given the performance.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s not trueThat return is based largely on one deal, TACODAIt does not include the performance of a bunch of companies in our portfolio that are valuable but are not marked upThe only real measure of venture performance is cash on cash after a fund is fully realized and liquidated

      1. Guest

        So you are saying that the final return will be even better? OK, so I may revise my metaphor, then. USV is not like a 100m dash sprinter, but more like a 1500m runner, who at the middistance is 200 m ahead of the pack… Not much difference….

        1. fredwilson

          I hope so but there are no guarantees in this business until “the fat lady sings”

  46. Caryn

    A great reminder that reaching out, connecting with our communities, contacts and customers is the most important work we do. Thanks!

  47. Luca Conti

    Could I have an invite please? Thanks 🙂

  48. Vasudev Ram

    Fred,Wonderful post, and so right.I loved this sentence:>Its about the “realest” work I do.:-)What you say is confirmed by my own experience of blogging, too.I’ve been blogging for over three years now, and over time, I’ve been getting approached with work offers by people, some of whom say they got to know of me via my blog …I know a lot of other people get work that way, too.- Vasudev

  49. @MattWilsonTV

    If you love what you do it’s not work remember!”hanging out” on social media, reading RSS, connecting people on twitter, interacting with tons of awesome people seems like a hell of a lot of fun!It’s the clients calling that can seem like work

  50. fredwilson

    Invite sent