NYC 3.0 Interview

NYC 3.0 is a website that covers the NYC tech startup community. It was started recently by two Columbia University Journalism School students. A few weeks ago, they sat down with me in my office and asked some questions like “what mistakes do entrepreneurs make when they pitch?” and “what characteristics make up a good entrepreneur?”. 

The interview is now up on the web. The video is about six minutes long. Here it is.

Fred Wilson talks trends, advice for startups from Vadim Lavrusik on Vimeo.


Comments (Archived):

  1. RichardF

    I like this video alot Fred, it’s a great summary. I think this should be indexed somewhere prominently on your site.Which takes me slightly off topic, sorry, in that I like how Brad Feld has his “resources/categories” on his index page. It makes it easy to access previous posts. I know your categories are in the archives section but do wonder if there is a way that the goldmine of info which is in your blog could be better signposted.

    1. Mark Essel

      Sounds like a great opportunity. I’d love a utility that could make organizing my historic posts easier, and have asked Fred and other prominent bloggers to consider a blog to book effort to ease catching up.

      1. falicon

        hrm…sounds like there could be a market for a tagging product like delicious that was integrated/implemented like disqus (ie. a widget you install on blog posts, let’s the crowd do the tagging/organizing, and then also let’s the crowd access those tags to consume more of the content around the blog)…maybe it could even just be an addition to disqus functionality (though prob. a bit too far off focus for them right now)…interesting idea 😉

    2. fredwilson

      i do need to work on that.

  2. David Semeria

    Those chairs don’t look very elbow friendly….

    1. kidmercury

      and judging by the sharp corners i wouldn’t say their childproof either. damn what kind of danger zone is this boss?????

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Definitely not of Italian design, I’d say.

    3. andyswan

      They are, without question, “get out of my office” chairs.

      1. kidmercury

        lol the unspoken message of those chairs is “don’t get too comfy because your stupid ass probably ain’t getting funded”

    4. Mark Essel

      This damnable phone won’t show the chairs! Flash fail.

    5. David Noël

      These are for the test: if you can pitch Fred sitting in these chairs without hurting your elbows and he ends up writing a check, your elbows are made for the big fight.

    6. fredwilson

      they are absolutely awful. form over function. many many elbows have been pained by them. they will be gone when we move to our new office

      1. Ro Gupta

        thank the lord

      2. ShanaC

        So why did you get them in the first place?

  3. kidmercury

    great video boss. my only beef is with the “have your engineers internally” idea. i think that’s critical for some companies (perhaps the kind USV likes to focus on) although i think value is shifting away from proprietary apps and towards remixing APIs/open source apps, content creation, and things like game design, which is more of a sociological skill than a technical one. IMHO this value shift is the big opportunity that displaces google as the economic keystone of the web.

    1. David Noël

      Agreed for mashups and apps built on top of an APi but you need the robust software/architecture first and this works best by having your key people inhouse.

      1. kidmercury

        why not just grab an open source CMS? that can be your “core” app. as it is open source, it is more likely to have a modular/loose coupling design, which will make it easier to plug APIs into. that is sort of the way i view things, i view the community as like my software development division.

        1. David Noël

          Sure, to get started quickly and get your product in front of people that would be a way to go. I’ve seen the opposite though were an external open-source dev division failed entirely but that was much rather an organizational problem and probably a different discussion. I think that in either case, if you want it to scale, you’ll have to move your architecture at one point.

          1. kidmercury

            yes i think you may have a great point there. right now i am still just a dude in his apartment (but a profitable one!) so scalability is not much of an immediate concern at this point. however i can already see how i may need to fork away from vbulletin in some way at some point, as i get more and more locked into certain business processes and dependent upon my own unique combination of APIs.

          2. David Noël

            The good thing is that you’re aware of it and you can plan accordingly. I’ve seen others missing that moment and they were left behind waving their users goodbye because they couldn’t keep up.

          3. Mark Essel

            “just a dude in his apartment (but a profitable one!)”good place to could always fork a process, depending on auotmation

    2. markslater

      we have outsourced some of the dev work to russia for a texting startup i am involved in – but the core engineering leadership is in the founding team. There are also issues around intellectual property that we are evolving with counsel.

      1. fredwilson

        i like that model

      2. ShanaC

        Exactly how does this model work up close?

      3. chadmaue

        I’m doing something similar with my virtual goods startup.Serbian outsourcing that’s directly managed by core founding team. We all keep the same hours and are immediately available via gtalk and skype. It’s low cost and works great.

    3. Mark Essel

      Victus Media is a mashup in action. I just want to decentralize dependence on any one service. We’re locked into Twitter at the moment.Totally agree on the layered web.

  4. reece

    The students behind NYC3.0 are great guys. If anyone is looking to get their NYC-startup story out there, I’m happy to make an introduction…

  5. ErikSchwartz

    Added to my Boxee queue with one click.

    1. fredwilson


  6. subbu arumugam

    that personality, that “stuff”, that draws others to you… to become founders… work long hours at low pay… and forces angels and VCs to say “here’s my money”… let’s just call it “kavorka” – the lure of the animal… 🙂

  7. andyswan

    “It’s ALL sales”

    1. David Semeria

      Metcalfe: “Nothing happens until something gets sold”

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        True.Then ‘Support’ happens!

      2. fredwilson

        Yeah. But what is a sale?

  8. falicon

    This is great because it covers a lot of the basic questions I would have wanted to ask you myself in quick conversation over coffee – so thanks!The only thing throughout that really threw me off was the mention of interest in ‘real time’…I’m just not as much a fan of real time as I am ‘over time’…and I think too many companies/people are focusing on real time right now when the reality is that more and more, we are all living in an asynchronous time…it doesn’t really matter to me when you are doing something, it matters to me what you have done (that I’m currently interested in)…so I guess it’s really a combination of “my real time” with “your over time” (history)…Anyway – awesome stuff once again. Thanks!

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      I guess you’re talking more about time in a temporal sense, Kevin? If so, I agree.Well produced video.

    2. fredwilson

      that’s why its not yet in the “big six” but maybe it should be

    3. kidmercury

      yup, i agree regarding “over time.” i’m a believer in real time as well, but i think it’s way overhyped, and it’s going to be some time before it gets adoption.

  9. Thorsten Claus

    Hi Fred, Did you have a look at Music Mastermind? It’s mobile, gaming, and a new way to create and trade music… Bo Bazylevsky is located in NY, might be worth looking at…

    1. fredwilson

      i’ll check it out. have not heard of them yet

  10. Nick Oliva

    I loved the sincere sense of loss about the passed-up investment opportunities. I once asked at a VC conference whether VC’s were ever evaluated by the LP’s on the opportunities they passed up, and the response was total disbelief… as though it couldn’t possibly matter.

      1. Nick Oliva

        That’s awesome! If anyone knows of anybody else publishing something like this, please link it up… I love these!“How can I get out of this house without going anywhere near your garage?”… where two students were writing a new search engine… CLASSIC!

      2. LJL

        So, what are the patterns that you or others may have that have caused them to pass up on the great ones? How have many, even recently, watched the millions burn when it was apparent—>obvious, at least to an ‘active’ bystander like myself, that they would never succeed. (sent an email earlier)”Perhaps the only consistent factor in all your failed relationships is you.”

  11. shanedsnow

    Great Job NYC3.0, and great advice, Fred. I think your insight on the entertainment factor good entrepreneurs embody is so true. Also, I like the advice on not outsourcing your engineering. Good good call!

  12. PhilipSugar

    I really agree with two of your comments1. “Salesmanship” is very important. I like that term. Too many of us with elite degrees put that below us. Its almost taught that selling is for those “beneath” us when in fact its absolutely critical. (You almost look like you don’t want to use the S word after you say it)2. When you’re building a technology the technology team is a full partner, including having a tech person on the founding team, you can’t outsource the core of your business.

    1. fredwilson

      Those are two very key points to highlight. Thanks

  13. jenniferhammaker

    I work with faculty and companies who collaborate on new tech, agree that ultimately the tech has to move inhouse to avoid issues down the road.

  14. jenniferhammaker

    I work with, and fund, faculty and company collaborations. In our case, agree the tech needs to move in house ultimately to avoid issues down the road. Entrepreneurial faculty need to see this too to learn how to pitch. Nice to see Columbia students created this.

  15. Nick Molnar

    Gaming…in the broad sense, is something I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about. I’m actually giving a TEDx talk on the subject.The classic example I use, which always make the concept click for people foreign to the concept, is Weight Watchers. It has all the characteristics of an RPG, and it has been altering people’s behaviour in a fundamental way for decades. It does what the threat of health problems can’t do, loss of attractiveness can’t do, hypnotism can’t do: it actually gets people to eat less…and all it took were a few goals and some novel ways to measure progress.

    1. fredwilson

      What a great example. I am going to start using that too if you don’t mind

  16. Florent Peyre

    My preferred advice is the one on focusing the team efforts on solving only the most important piece of the puzzle and avoid trying to solve everything out of the gate. That’s where you get lost… And then, you’re in pain when you have to explain what your product is about, even before you released it (that’s also where you start loosing your audience after the 10 mn explaining all of the features you built or are building).

    1. fredwilson


  17. Mark Essel

    Fred, I believe the personality type/sales technique that you were looking to articulate, is the “reality distortion field” that Steve Blank refers to a number of times (one of my favorite posts of his Rocket Science 2, drinking the Kool-Aid, and more recently Make no little plans).

  18. AlThomson

    I’m curious why you say companies need to have tech founders. I’ve heard you say it a few times. As a startup guy with an idea its soooo much harder to find a developer to come on board, believe in your product, not forgetting compatability ! Care to expand?

    1. fredwilson

      Because someone has to build the product and if you can’t, you should have that person as your partner

  19. Tereza

    Help me, Yoda.I’m considering a pivot based on this post.I’ve been boot-strapping — paying out (modest) cash and no equity as yet — to build the MVP of my dream social web/mobile/local/lifestyle app.It’s not complicated technically. The 15+ hackers I interviewed unanimously felt this business is a marketing and UI challenge, not deep technical. Which works for me since I’m deep in marketing and translating real needs into products that work for real people, managing projects, and selling services and stuff, to business and to people.I’ve been working with two people who believe in the dream, are seasoned, one a designer, one developer. I love them. They have day jobs and are going to the mat for me nights, weekends, and jammed between their day work. We’re off-shoring the logical chunks, and keeping the core pieces close to home. They know I want to bring them in moving forward, but they have not asked for equity, and I have not offered.We are operating this under my pre-existing LLC, and I planned to spin this venture out when I have to. So a question is, if I don’t formalize their equity now (and keep things simple for me), am I setting up downstream questions on my and their commitment.I was delaying bringing in a CTO-level partner until I put this Beta out in the marketplace, to see what the market thinks, and what our priorities are for 2.0. (I have a bunch of hypotheses developed for possible product/market paths, depending on what we learn and see) But of course that person would wield sway over the two people I already have.I’m protecting the IP; a childhood friend is a top tech patent attorney in NY. The good news is a bunch of really excellent people keep offering me free or low-cost help in lots of ways — legal, PR/marketing and the like. Fortunately i’m pretty ancient have have relationships to call on.So Fred — tell me — should I make bringing in my CTO partner my top priority right now? If I don’t, am I screwed?If Yes……anyone here interested and wanna talk?

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t think you need a CTO now. But why not bring your two devs onto your team and make them small partners in the business

      1. Tereza

        Totally doable and in fact I’d be please to do so. Thanks for the nudge.

  20. ADstruc

    Good stuff, Fred!

  21. maverickny

    Had to rewind because I got distracted by the cubist chairs! Didn’t see the comments until afterwards though, heh.

  22. andrerib

    The problem with the “intangible” part of each entrepreneur is that it’s almost impossible to read or measure. You can only know when an entrepreneur “has it” when you talk to him directly or see him interacting with media, clients & team. It’s something than you can learn but “naturals” do it better. 🙂

  23. Miguel Buckenmeyer

    The take away: 1. Keep it simple2. Focus, take things one step at a time3. Don’t be boringThanks for the great advice Fred.

  24. ShanaC

    I want to say something about keeping engineering in house- you may want to also keep a good chunk of UX/UI in house too. For the exact same reasons you keep engineering in house. And it should not be an afterthought, because sometimes a UX/UI/design issue can very much impact the engineering side. They should grow in tandem to each other.Just a passing thought.

  25. aanwar

    Some good stuff you mentioned.

  26. Denny Ferrassoli

    Do you find that entrepreneurs with the skills you mention generally have or do not have a technical background?

  27. Prakash

    I love the point where you mention that the pitch should get to the point and show the product within 30 seconds.We build mobile apps for our clients. We’ve used this philosophy while offering services. Instead of pitching all our past experience, team strengths, etc – we create a proof of concept. The client gets immediately engrossed and starts giving feedback and ways by which the POC could be improved.Works over 95% of the time! 🙂

  28. Álvaro Bautista

    great interview

  29. Aviah Laor

    Great Interview Fred. It’s nice that you didn’t make it a super-hero issue: Focus on technical ability, a new model, a momentum gaining market. Keep it simple and draw people in. The rest is luck.

  30. MyFryingPan

    Iterate Iterate Iterate, I like. Too many guys sit around cranking out code and never deliver or spend months planning and never execute.

  31. RAuguste

    Good stuff but where are the speakers for all that music you listen to? Built into the chairs? Why hasn’t Gotham girl redecorated?

    1. fredwilson

      She would love to. Trust me. Its all I can do to hold her back

  32. jgooch

    Great points Fred. Really appreciated the technology outsourcing bit. I think it may be a good idea to farm out those pieces that are not critical to the copr – not potential IP. A company in the tech space will hopefully have a fantastic head of tech on staff to ensure the right decisions are being made and architecture is being planned/developed to meet the corporate objectives. Again, appreciated your comments greatly. Also agree with you on getting to the product in pitches…


    Thanks for sharing. Always good to hear these kind of things to reevaluate how we approach the business of entrepreneurship.

  34. fredwilson

    I take lots of naps. I hope to have a comfortable couch and a do not disturb sign in my next office

  35. Tereza

    Fred, just know that all those people who say you should get an eye job are lying.Come to think of it, when my app goes live, you’ll be able to verify that for yourself and ask the crowd for anonymous feedback.If even then you still have irking doubts, simply click through to the adjacent link to your local plastic surgeon, to schedule a free consult (and a 20% off Botox promo). Or your local Avon lady for some men’s concealer. Kerching.

  36. fredwilson

    I’m not into the nip and tuck thing. I am what I am and am never going to let a plastic surgeon near me

  37. Tereza

    :-)That’s good.Some people are on the margin though and yearn for others’ opinions on themselves. It’s a highly fragmented, locally-fulfilled. high ASP market. Although what i’m working on goes way beyond surgery and to all kinds of daily decisions. I was just joking around.

  38. fredwilson

    I know you are working on something much bigger than nip and tuck. I just wanted to go on record on the plastic surgery thing. I just don’t get it. So many people ruin their beauty as they age with the knife

  39. Tereza

    I actually agree, and think that imperfection/asymmetry of information people have about themselves is a big piece of that.Ads in local glossies and whispers at cocktail parties don’t help people very much.