There's No Such Thing As A Crystal Ball (continued)

I spent some time this morning putting together my deck for my “There’s No Such Thing As A Crystal Ball” talk tomorrow. Since I’ve already blogged this “meme” and got awesome comments on it (several of which have found their way into the talk), I figure I should keep going by posting my first draft of my deck. Please keep the comments and suggestions flowing. I will make sure to credit this community with the co-creation of the presentation.

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#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. GlennKelman

    Love the Peter Fleckman quote, love the pictures. And glad to see my name (though Kelman has one “l”) in lights!!!

    1. fredwilson

      I will fix the typo, although I’m not going to re-upload to slideshareThat was too painful yesterday

  2. Jay Bryant

    I always like to throw in this image about the future of advertising into my talks about the future from Hugh:

    1. fredwilson

      Great oneI think I now have to find a hugh cartoon for my talk!

  3. ravisohal

    In a nutshell: skip the crystal ball – when you look up “it” has already happened.

  4. Scott Gatz

    Thanks Fred, although its hard to get a feel without your voice-over. would love it if you could record your audio or share your notes tomorrow!

    1. WasatchGirl

      Yeah, I would love to hear a voice-over or see a text version of the audio. Think you will post, Fred?

      1. fredwilson

        I don’t have it unfortunately

  5. MIchael

    As Yogi Berra said: It’s difficult to make predicitons, especially about the future.Maybe you should tell the group that if they come to a fork in the road to take it. 8 )

    1. fredwilson

      Nice one

  6. Peter Fleckenstein

    Like it a lot Fred. I love concise presos and I get it without any audio or notes which makes it that much more valuable. That’s part of the value of being present in this community – after a short while you start to feel the flow and then you become part of the flow.And thanks again for the mention. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. fredwilson

      Danah Boyd told me about a game called powerpoint karoke that is played atgeek meetupsYou are handed a powerpoint you know nothing about and are required topresent itI love it

  7. Mike

    Like someone else mentioned, the deck is great. I think I get it without even needing the audio.One important part that which may tie into the engage deeply slide, is simply have passion. Talk about your idea / company 24/7. Live it and love it. Once entrepreneurs do that, the small set backs along the way won’t phase them. People will start to buy in over time. Then, next thing you know, you’ve created a self fulling prophecy and created the “next big thing” that everyone is talking about and wants to be a part of.

    1. fredwilson

      There was an entrepreneur in our office yesterday who had that in spadesWhether or not we invest, he will be successfulHe had “it”

  8. Shurtleff

    Fred both you and Brad have blogged well about learning from Failure. The one thing that i think is a miss in the presentation is all the examples are bonafide or perceived successes. Life doesn’t work that way. I realize that the preso is baked… but you might consider overlaying verbally some of the examples of lessons from the other side of the ledger…

    1. fredwilson

      I just added a slide called Getting It Wrong and decorated it with Hugh’sbrilliance, shown here…the

    2. JLM

      Unfortunately, we often learn more from failure than we do from success because the pain creates scars which do not go away easily. It is as important to catalog our failures as our successes particularly when trying to diviine the differences.The other big concept beyond simply a new product or innovation seen through the lense of the crystal ball is CONVERGENCE.The MP3 player was not just an innovation it was a critical element in the lubricant which created the convergence of the cell phone, the data phone, the Palm Pilot, the digital camera, the text messaging device/beeper/pager, the video viewer ……………………………………………..the iPhone. And if you think about it, the MP3 player put all that other “stuff” to music. Music added that sensory element that made it all lifelike cause life is set to a soundtrack and what makes us all different is that soundtrack. Who else digs Harry Chapin? Jackson Browne? Jerry Jeff Walker? Pat Green?When peering through the crystal ball, one of the big questions should also be — what’s getting ready to converge and be repackaged?If you’re doing this to make money, you have to leverage the lowered cost of convergence and packaging. Sometimes the convergence opportunity and the packaging is as important as the original innovation.My favorite convergence and packaging triumphs — the iPhone and MS suite of everything software.Never underestimate the power of convergence, packaging and COOL. I actually believe that the election of Pres Obama was an exercise in choosing the “cool” guy over the “uncool” guy and the fact that the cool guy “got it” as it related to the social media just made it a no brainer for a certain slice of America — who unfortunately may have turned out truly not to have any brains [cheap shot].

      1. fredwilson

        Cheap shot taken and acknowledgedGreat comment even with the bad ending ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. Fraser

        JLM, I am going to subscribe to your discuss feed. Your comments stand up on their own, even without the context of the original post.

        1. fredwilson

          More entertaining than most things I read every day

      3. Morgan Warstler

        JLM, I was going to call tomorrow. you going to be around for sxsw?

        1. JLM

          Bad day tom’w Friday — earnings conf call, lobbying @ the Capitol.I am headed to SC the next week but don’t know which day, depends on the weather as I am flying myself.Give me a call on Monday. Thanks.

  9. GS

    I think I get the slides.I couldn’t agree more with your posts on the topic. I would like to point you to a book titled The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun. I found his book to be a fabulous read and very insightful. In it he unravels the media “myths” designed to make things sell. He shows that innovation and success come from years of hard work and smaller innovations and that for the most part “Eureka” moments are for the most part nonsense take one of the thing we all love, the Internet he shows that,” the internet required nearly 40 years of innovations in electronics, networking, and packet-switching software before it even approximated the system Tim Berners-Lee used to create the World Wide Web.” Or even take your MP3 player, for it to come to market and be successful, took years of hard work and innovation on many different fronts and someone to realize that all of the various technologies could work together to create an amazing portable device.His blog is:…Best of luck on the presentation!Steven

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks for the link to scottI’ll check it out

  10. Ben Ortega

    We all have a crystal ball. Your crystal ball is your idea.Whether your experimenting or its just in your head, you constantly look to your idea (ball) for inspiration. You visualize what your idea will be like when its in the market and how people will consume it. Your idea will cause you to see how you’ll set up proper channels for others to receive it. Problems will show themselves when you are looking at your ideas. You also see greatness before it becomes great.These are all what a crystal ball is intended to do….help you see forward. Concentrating on your idea, is looking at your crystal ball.

  11. derrinyet

    There’s definitely no such thing as a crystal ball.However, we all wear different lenses through which we look at the world – pessimistic, optimistic, technocratic, etc – so it’s also important to recognize these lenses and acknowledge how they enhance or distort our view of the future.

  12. kasi

    I spend almost 2-hours reading all the comments and re-comments and munching some of the great one-liners…during office hours!! very bad but has become an addiction for me.Great community and great blog.BTW, is that you (fred) on the 10th slide?

    1. fredwilson

      I was not on the slideBut I just love this story:”I was lucky enough to be in @Jack’s group, where he first described aservice that uses SMS to tell small groups what you are doing. We happenedto be on top of the slide on the north end of South Park. It was sunny andbrisk. We were eating Mexican food. His idea made us stop eating and starttalking.”The entire post is here…

  13. Satish Mummareddy

    Narrowing down even further on “The future is created by being present in the now” comment —- The future is created is by people who live an aware life today. People who are listening to people around them and their own inner voice (either consciously or subconsciously), constantly looking for pain points in the way we live our lives / do things today. And then doing something about it instead of just sitting on their butt complaining out it.Necessity is the mother of invention and it all comes back to that – whether you are aware of your present to see the opportunities around you and whether you put your mind to taking advantage of the opportunities.

  14. Carl Rahn Griffith

    great visuals, experience distills to: never underestimate how radically things can change – and how quickly (especially nowadays).embrace change, don’t fear an entrepreneur you should be prepared to evangelize radical change – the zeitgeist is only a reflection of the here and now; it’s the impending zeitgeist that prepared to be harshly objective with your mission – if it’s not working and you’ve given your all, re-assess – i spent too long quite a few years ago focused on x-windows based stuff and believed in it so much i was late in accepting the harsh reality that ‘X’ was just never going to go mainstream. anyway …i remember many (many) years ago, when i was a mainframe operator, being asked to set-up a delivery of new systems one night-shift – turned out they were some of the first IBM PCs to arrive in the uk (told you it was a long time ago) – myself and a colleague did so and concluded “these things will never catch on” and returned to the ‘proper’ IT of our 3270 screens ….now, many years later, change is so quick it can take one’s breath away – it’s wonderful, just be prepared – for anything.’funky business’ (jonas ridderstrale/kjell nordstrom) is a good primer.

    1. fredwilson

      “these things will never catch on”When you hear that, you know you are on to something

  15. needcaffeine

    like it a lot. 2 other quotes that could work with it….”We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” ~Walt Disneyand “Keep moving foward!” – Wilbur, “Meet the Robinsons”

    1. fredwilson

      Wilbur!That’s awesomeI’ll have to add that live since I just put the final version on my memory stick

  16. Dorian Benkoil

    Fred, Love how open you are about all this, let us see how you and USV are working w/ it all. One thing about the way you work w/ your projects is not just experimenting and using the stuff yourself, but also building an interlinking ecosystem. Not just using Twitter or or Tumblr but also looking for ways to have them interlinking and feeding each other and using that traffic and use to learn from each other. That can be a force multiplier you’re helping create. (I could argue that USV, with its various projects, is becoming its own nascent media network — especially if we can throw your blogs, Etsy, Boxee and other content you’re helping create or manage in there.) You’re using the capabilities of the technologies to help create your network, and get the eventual geometric leaps in traffic, usage, learning, etc.Hope this makes sense and is of help. Maybe this is covered by the geodesic dome slide.

    1. fredwilson

      You are on to me. I didn’t plan any of this out. It just happened and we are running with it

      1. Dorian Benkoil

        Ha! Wondering: Does it apply to the talk — and how one can (or can’t) work in the present moving toward the future?

  17. Chris Dodge

    Maybe this was covered in the previous post comments, but sometimes ideas that were mistimed in the past could be very ripe in the present or near-future.I’m a pretty big believer in Mobile for Enterprise applications (outside of merely messaging) as an emerging market. However, when I casually discuss this interest with various VCs, I get a lot of people talking about their old “battle scars” from previous older investments in companies that addressed the Mobile Enterprise market.A good sample case in point for the consumer market, there were several YouTube-like companies around in the 1999-2002 timeframe, none of which survived the DotCom crash. And a lot of investors were quite aware of how expensive those failures were in terms of hosting/bandwidth costs.The tech and marketplace were really not ripened until around the time YouTube was founded in 2005. At that point bandwidth and hosting were much cheaper and Flash made the end-user experience much better.Just because something failed once, it doesn’t mean that it can work in a slightly different environment. Also, as an Entrepreneur, one should get too hung up about doing something “Blue Sky Innovation” new, there’s plenty of opportunity in evolutionary innovation.

    1. fredwilson

      There were three or four web bookmarking services before delicious too

  18. Facebook User

    you don’t need a crystal ball……the fundamentals are always the same. Make a product or service, that is cheaper and more convenient than existing products/services or methods.The only problem is most people don’t like change; unless the status quo is really bad.So, to revise the above statement:Make a product or service that saves people money and/or time, and it’s easy to transition to from existing solutions.-Bedros

  19. Stu Rich

    Great slide deck Fred. One of the few other blogs other than yours that I read every day had this great quote from the Hindu Bhavagad Gita which states โ€œTo action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inactionโ€. The language is a little cryptic, but my translation of this is that we must take what actions we feel are most appropriate with the information available at any given moment. Furthermore, we can not know what the full results of our actions will be in our complex world, but we can not let that lack of a crystal ball paralyze us. All we can do is watch in amazement as the results of our collective actions play out around us every day. Isn’t it an interesting world?

    1. fredwilson

      Yes, and it probably always has been for those who behave this way

  20. Keenan

    Fred, You send away more entrepreneurs than you see. You turn down more investment opportunities than you fund. Being an entrepreneur you get more people telling you no, than yes. It take tremendous courage and fortitude to keep going.As many have said in the comments, there are few “ah ha’ moments. It requires amazing courage to put yourself out there and make claims about the future, to innovate and do what hasn’t been done. Without it, forget it, nothing else matters. I would consider a slide about courage and perseverance.

    1. JLM

      “Press on: nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”Who said that?

      1. fredwilson

        No idea. Do tell.

        1. JLM

          Silent Cal — Calvin Coolidge

    2. fredwilson

      Good suggestion

      1. Peter Fleckenstein

        So Fred – Really interested in how the preso went and the reaction and interaction. Could you provide us an update? ๐Ÿ™‚

        1. fredwilson

          It went great. The audience loved it. I am going to continue to work on this deck and think I can make it even better. Your quote went over very well

          1. Peter Fleckenstein

            I have to say that it’s nice that my quote worked well and it’s cool to have someone like yourself consider it good enough to put in a preso.What really gave me a great feeling about it was not the personal recognition. It was being a part of a communal discusssion and effort to help and add value for others without expectation of something in return. For me it’s the circle of one to many and many to one.What one gives always returns back in abundance in many ways and many times. There is enough for everyone.Thanks for the update.

  21. Prashant Sachdev

    nice post Fred. I liked the title of the post a lot!recently, i read about bear market statistics at after reading that i again remembered the title of your post – there is no such thing like crystal ball…and we should just focus on creating value in present ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Scott

    Who’s the guy in the “Engage Deeply” slide?If he’s got the balls to wear that jacket, he’s probably a good entrepreneur lol.

    1. fredwilson

      Its rob kalin, founder of etsy, and he wears stuff that he buys on etsyThat’s engagement

      1. Scott

        Got it — I like it. Crafts are a nice little niche. My aunt’s NY-based site, Get Crafty, could’ve done quite well if she implemented social media aspects like Etsy:

        1. fredwilson

          I am sure you know this but Rob was involved a bit in Get Crafty and that’s how he got excited about the idea to create Etsy

  23. fredwilson

    Yeah, that’s a good one