Some Happenings In Our Portfolio

Yesterday, I saw an informal survey of our portfolio companies. One of the questions was "what can we help you with?"  One of the answers was "get Fred to blog more about us."

That gave me a good chuckle. Regular readers know that I do blog a fair bit about our portfolio companies but I also try to keep it balanced. Too much pimping of the portfolio doesn't make for a good VC blog.

All that said, this is a blog post about some happenings in our portfolio.

1) Yesterday Twitter announced a new version of their web client. They are rolling it out already. I got it sometime last night. It is a two pane interface. You click on a tweet and open up a second pane with a lot of additional data on that tweet, including embeds of videos and photos. If you have the iPad Twitter client, you'll immediately understand. One thing I wish they would have included from the iPad client is the full page behind the link. I love reading on the iPad client that way and I wish the they had included that feature in the new web client. I think this is a big improvement to the web client and congratulations to the engineering and product teams who designed and built it.

2) On Monday, Boxee put their Boxee Box up for pre-order on Amazon. It is currently #6 in electronics and was as high as #4 yesterday. The Boxee promise is "Watch What You Want":

We get it – you want to the freedom to watch whatever you want on your TV: Movies, TV Shows, Sports, but also any other video that is available online. You want to do it without having to connect a computer to your TV or use a keyboard and mouse. We’re all over it. The Boxee Box by D-Link: watch, organize, share – you are now in full command of your TV for the first time. No rules, no contracts.

If you want to watch everything you can watch on your laptop on your TV, check out the Boxee Box. It should ship soon.

3) Twilio lowered prices for inbound and outbound calls made on its telephony API. Here are the new prices:

Twilio pricing
I've gotten feedback on this blog in previous posts about Twilio that their prices seemed high. As Twilio generates more volume, they will drive prices down and pass them onto their developers. As it should be.

4) Get Glue launched an iPad client. I used it to check into several TV shows on Sunday and each time I did that, there were between 50 and 100 people checked into the same TV shows. It's a really cool app to have on the family room coffee table while watching TV, reading books, and listening to music and such. If you haven't tried it, check it out.


I am sure I've missed a bunch of other happenings in our portfolio in the past week. I might make this a regular feature here on AVC to alleviate that issue. I'm curious what all of you think about that.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Evan

    Haters gonna hate. I’d include the classic internet forum photo but I’m not sure Disqus would allow it.It’s your blog, do what you want with it. Even when you blog about your portfolio, you generally don’t shill in PR-speak, which is what people Maybe I’ve missed it, but I needed more background on GetGlue. As you wrote it up, it didn’t mean much to me.

    1. Mark Essel

      As I understand getglue they are working to connect social/community to media and browsing. I tried it out briefly last year but never returned. I’ll take a look at their iPad app this weekend.

      1. Fraser

        Mark, that’s a pretty nice 20k ft summary. Our mobile apps are really resonating with people – I encourage you to check them out as they’re new.A simple way to think of what we’re working on is ‘Foursquare for entertainment.’ Check-in to what you’re watching, reading and listening to. Connect with friends and fans around the movies, tv shows, music, and books that you’re consuming.We use the information you share (check-ins and ratings) to make personalized recommendations for other movies, shows, music, … that you’ll like.

        1. Mark Essel

          Groovy, everyone’s working hard to recommend great stuff for me to check out. If it’s good enough, I’d pay for the privilege. I’ve spent enough time trying to dissect personal relevancy and various recommendation engines: Amazon, Netflix, Hunch, Facebook, GetGlue on personal blog posts and posts from many tech influencing friends. Ideally, I’ll have a virtual agent that scours the web finding anything that’s very high value to me where I have final say over all the nobs and dials, unassociated from any outside company – ideal pattern matching to my interests, and profitable third parties may conflict. Could there be an open source virtual social search agent with a .com service extension for $X dollars per month (kinda like we have a suite of different apps that co-mingle social and search, I’m having a good time trying to figure out what direction the market will take.

          1. Fraser

            Agreed. It’s an interesting space for sure. One with a lot of unlocked opportunity.We do a few cool things in terms of recommendations:- filter the weekly new releases (movies, music, books) and ‘push’ the relevant ones to you- filter the catalogue that you haven’t consumed and show you items most recommended for your tastes, cross-verticalThe nice thing about having check-ins and ratings is that they build out a robust taste profile. I can ‘like’ Dexter and True Blood but when I check-in 13 times to True Blood and 3 times to Dexter it says a lot about my interests.

  2. Joe Reader

    this blog is a phenomenal marketing tool for union square ventures, mostly because you come across as sincere and unapologetic.please don’t get sucked into an ongoing task of promoting your different portfolio companies by giving such regular updates. it will make your blog much more like other VC blogs, and that would be a terrible shame.

  3. ErikSchwartz

    Twilio’s outbound rate isn’t bad.But when I was running Foneshow we used voxbone and had unlimited inbound minutes for a flat monthly rate.The carriers are still getting away with murder on SMS, the only way around that are hacks like the fox box (which works if your throughput isn’t too much)

    1. JimHirshfield

      But don’t forget that Twilio doesn’t just offer phone service. It’s the tools, the ease of programming to this platform. So you’re paying for that too.

  4. JimHirshfield

    Oh, phew…you got the Twitter announcement covered, ’cause I kinda missed that one. ;-)But seriously, I can’t imagine Twitter team responding to your survey requesting more coverage. πŸ™‚

    1. fredwilson

      Bet you can imagine Bostjan though πŸ™‚

  5. ErikSchwartz

    What is this twitter thing you mentioned? πŸ™‚

  6. RichardF

    Like Evan say’s it’s your blog…I like the general marketing you do for your portfolios companies and it’s part of the USV added value but if your going to do general updates like this one, I’d suggest a separate page on the blog with a feed that links to it from the main page.

  7. Anthony Onesto

    I think it’s a fine idea, as long as you’re honest about the post in the same way you were honest here. Let folks know what’s coming and be overt. I think people will find value in learning that Get Glue has an iPad app. I’m not sure if you post about new investments, but you should include that info too. Some of us try to gauge movement by looking at funding events. Looking for that next great adventure.

  8. Kelley Boyd @msksboyd

    I like the notion of a regular column on your portfolio companies. If you attribute the same title, hmmm, something like “Portfolio Update” then people who don’t want to read about your companies (whaaa?) would skip the post that day. OR, maybe you can have a person from those companies do a guest post ever so often with updates or lessons being learned, pivots etc. Since its introduction, Bug Labs has changed direction (or added new markets) and it would be interesting to hear what happened( i.e. did the market change, technology pivot etc.) to move from a straight up CE player to embracing the build for enterprise devices. They seem to be the Kim Basinger of electronics. Getting big in Europe but maybe not getting a lot of press here??I say, bring it on, there are lessons in these posts and I gotta believe that the 89,000 followers you have are here to learn them.

    1. Evan

      ‘Folio Update Fridays!

      1. Mike

        You beat me to it +1

        1. Evan

          i guess Folio Fridays has a better ring to it.

          1. Mark Essel

            Smooth title

  9. LIAD

    I come here for Wilson wisdom closely followed by community insights and banter.As long as they’re both included – I’m happy reading posts about Sesame Street.

    1. fredwilson

      I’m here for the community banter too

    2. Aviah Laor

      πŸ™‚ I protest for the Sesame Street community.They are a great startup gang. For a start, none of them could keep a corporate/cubicle job for two days, and that’s the best indication.And when you find better co-founders than Ernie & Bert, let me know.

    3. Dan Lewis

      As Sesame Street’s social media guy, I have to agree. Everyone should be happy reading posts about Sesame Street! πŸ™‚

      1. LIAD

        initial thought was you must be joking. But just checked, and you’re not! – thats a sweet gig you’ve got. Would consider donating a kidney for a business card with Sesame Street on it.

        1. Mark Essel

          wait what, Dan works for Sesame Street. No way!

        2. Dan Lewis

          I can send you one of mine, just send me a mailing address πŸ™‚

      2. fredwilson


      3. ShanaC

        omg, that is totally awesome! I still love sesame street! How do you kid friendly social media with a crowd that may not be able to read yet?

  10. wefinda team

    I like hearing about your portfolio companies and love your blog in general. Look forward to more Fred.

  11. reece

    It’s your blog, bro… we’re just Disqusing on it.That being said, I’d prefer not to come here and see “X company released Y feature.” That’s for TechCrunch to cover (and me to ignore).BUT… if like LIAD said, it includes some Wilson Wisdom and/or greater insight into the feature/tactic/company, then I’m into it.

    1. Evan

      i think that’s the key. even the twitter announcement today included some product feedback. that’s semi-inside baseball that’s interesting to see.

    2. Mark Essel

      Yeah I want the juicy details of how business X,Y,Z scales its back end with various database architectures.

  12. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    I think regular updates — depending on how regular — on your portfolio could be a good idea, but I’d love to see stuff that’s less likely to be on TechCrunch (you know what I mean). Everyone’s talking about the new Twitter web client, and a lot of people saw the Boxee and Twilio news.What’s happening with companies like (say) Indeed and Return Path, that I understand are doing very well but aren’t “sexy” in the way Twitter is? That would be a cool feature on AVC.You already did that with the iPad feature in Glue — maybe those things could be the focus.

  13. kagilandam

    Run … Fred… RUN … (as in Forest Gump πŸ™‚ ) this tribe is knowledge hungry.

  14. Matt A. Myers

    My days are fluid enough now where I check and decide how much time I’ll dedicate to AVC – if I’ll check back later for most populars comments, etc..Congrats on all of the announcements to those companies. Moving forward / shipping feels good.

  15. Aviah Laor

    There is no question here. Really, Fred writes a new blog post every day for years, participate and comment in every post discussion – all that without updates about portfolio companies? After all, the other staff is also about these (or past) portfolio companies.

  16. David Semeria

    Considering the blog is one of USV’s communication channels, it seems perfectly reasonable to mention the portfolio companies.Indeed, it demonstrates the type of value-added a modern VC can give.

  17. J. Anthony Miguez

    Nice post and congrats to your portfolio company teams. Would like to see the updates put in the context of larger trends or as examples of early stage best practices as well. Your insights and vision on the “forrest” are always educational even as you highlight some specific “trees”

  18. paulmunsch

    Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy

  19. Mark Essel

    I have a fun time trying to keep up with the USV portfolio tech happenings. Would make for a slick web news site. Pull in all the blog feeds and do some candid interviews with employees on their work and environment. I’d pimp USV’s portfolio, and I don’t have any stake in them.I’m opting for the software version of Boxee as I use a macmini in the living room for netflix + the odd iOS xcode app (nothing interesting just poking at obj c). Used Twilio for text messaging, and thought it was already a good deal. Maybe we got the trial deal for garage dollar 0.1’s push service – btw we’re likely pulling the plug on garagedollar after some market research it’s just not ready for interactive web apps. I found a great competitor that built pretty much exactly what I was imagining (, they had some nice writesup in lifehacker and have been around for 3 years, they (pull in/scrape?) craigslist daily but have sub 100k monthly site traffic.Heads up to the AVC community: startup hiring process is about 1000 times faster than for engineers in my old field (if you’re lucky after 5-6 months they get back to you if you’re resume is a fit).-Heard back from Tom @ Foursquare. We talked last night I sent him code samples, hope the 4sq’ers are ok getting into the office, Dennis tweeted an elevator outtage. -Also heard from Joanna at Twilio, she had trouble seeing my tricked out html5 resume on her laptop – but it worked fine on her desktop browser, it’s an SF position. -Plus I heard from Matthew Cholerton @ Bugs Lab, he was looking for work samples so I sent him some. I still have no idea what they do after browsing the site briefly but it sounds interesting, modular open source hardware, can I trick out my own smart phone?Love how fast startups get back to applicants.

    1. Joe Siewert

      Since you mentioned hiring stuff, here’s a plug for the recently launched A site that aims to connect tech talent with volunteers from NYC startups. I just heard about it through Jonathan Wegner (@jwegener), one of the guys behind it. I think I need to plan a visit.

      1. Mark Essel

        Nice! Thanks Joe, I’ll check it out. *update* Oh yeah this is related to what Matt Mireles mentioned (busing in hackers to NYC)

    2. CJ

      Mark – I like your garage dollar idea but for other markets like services. I think the app or something similar could be huge if you targeted freelancers and those who were seeking their services. But maybe it’s been done already? I don’t know, haven’t done any market research, but when I saw Garage Dollar I immediately thought it would be cool for freelance tech support and such.

      1. Mark Essel

        I thought of live music and local entertainment as other options, but hadn’t considered it as an alternative to the yellow pages of local freelancers. Nifty idea Malcolm. I’m always trying to come up with a better way to simplify troublesome issues I come across, but that’s one connection I didn’t see.What type of work were you envisioning, local tech service, or other types of work? What does the local information get you beyond other alternatives?

        1. CJ

          Anything that requires you to go to the physical location would excel with this, I think. Especially for people who don’t do it often. Think of me offering my technical support expertise for the weekend as a garage sale. I put out a flier that on the weekend of the 17th I’m available for consulting services. I attach my skill-set, recommendations and references and it’s instant advertising. And since the subscribers opt-in and are notified via text, it’s sorta real-time which increases the likelihood that I’ll get business for the weekend I’m available. There’s more but that’s the general idea of where I was going. Not sure it would work after thinking it through again but that’s the premise I had in mind.

    3. fredwilson

      that makes me feel very good markstartups have to move faster

  20. awaldstein

    Sure….I didn’t know about ‘Get Glue’.Although a bit more interesting when you can dig into these in depth, like a spotlight.I, for one, am interested in your investments Fred and how what you invest in comes out of some of the thinking that is bantered around in these conversations.

    1. Fraser

      Hey there – happy to answer any questions you may have about Get Glue :)Some things are best understood by taking them for a quick test drive – I encourage you to check it out at

      1. awaldstein

        Thnx…I’ll check it outI blog and work at the intersection of the check in space and commerce and media with some clients so super interested.

  21. Senith MBA tutor

    IMHO once a week may be too often. Rather than a fixed time line, reporting interesting stuff may be better. Along with your thoughts/wisdom/opinion/stories on the developments.

  22. benjamindblack

    Portfolio updates are great. Enjoy ’em.

  23. Kyle Pearson

    Peer Pressure. A dangerous thing…

  24. Randall Bennett

    Having them all put together into one big chunk like this is pretty convenient. I’d be a fan of a weekly/occasional feature like this. I’m sure a lot of your readers have an encyclopedic knowledge of the companies you’ve invested in, but even if it’s just a quick scroll, it’s still interesting.I’d especially like to hear about the companies that aren’t in the press as much, and see what they’re doing.

  25. Frank Denbow

    Twilio is pretty awesome. I used them for startup weekend and I was happy with their service and will continue building apps on it.P.S: John Britton is awesome and deserves a raise πŸ™‚

  26. Jake Howerton

    The problem with @twilio, and what I and others have complained about is not just that they were charging an order of magnitude over market prices, but that they are restricting routes to their choosing. They need to become a platform, or someone else will.

    1. fredwilson

      can you explain that a bit morei’m not sure i totally understand the part about restricting routes

      1. Jake Howerton

        Hey Fred,Right now the product they are selling (or at least pricing around) is minutes. This means they abstract the actual price away from users and mark it up. Twilio picks all the upstream providers, termination points, etc, and adds a healthy markup(still) on top of what they are paying to these wholesalers and carriers. They also limit your outbound routing to PSTN only.I will paint picture for you. There are billions of minutes flowing through SMB phone systems, and even the smallest of these accounts is paying only a half a cent per minute(domestic) if they have negotiated it in the past 3 years.To address these potential customers, Twilio could provide SIP trunks so that people could connect their existing phone systems, or IP handsets to a simple programmable cloud PBX (developers could provide solutions for specific verticals). On the other side of the equation, Twilio could have open market competition for the routes that are served to customers. Customers could choose based on price, performance and availability who they wanted to route traffic to. Pricing could be based on resource usage(EC2 model) or by continuing to use minutes as the metric and charge a small ‘tax’ for using the platform.This could be rolled out slowly to large customers first( hosted VoIP providers who are consolidating rapidly right now and looking to ditch clunky Broadsoft or homegrown Asterisk systems).-Jake

  27. Doug Kersten

    I don’t mind discussions about your portfolio companies, but what interests me most is how you interact with them. That is your unique value proposition.Twilio’s pricing was too high. It’s the reason I wasn’t using them. It felt like retail pricing. Now they are much more competitive. They still have a little bit to go though, but the argument for using them is much more compelling.

    1. Danielle Morrill

      Thanks for the feedback on the pricing, looking forward to having you as a customer! This wasn’t prominent in the announcement, but we have volume pricing posted publicly now too:

  28. ShanaC

    If you are going to talk about your portfolio companies- why don’t you let them talk? As in, let them write a short post about an obscure feature that no one would take a look at otherwise. Or the process of how they got to where they are? Like great that boxee is either number four or 6 bestselling home electronics item and it is still in preorder- why don’t they tell us how they got there!

    1. fredwilson

      i’m still struggling with the idea of guest postsi like them for MBA Mondaysbut not sure about everything else

      1. ShanaC

        That’s fair. I understand that- how about you write about hidden featuresthat you discover then?

      2. paramendra

        Your linking to one of my blog posts felt like doing a guest post at your blog.

  29. Danielle Morrill

    Fred we appreciate any coverage you give us, since every person who visits Twilio has a chance of becoming a customer or telling someone else. However, I speaking from our experience with having Twilio covered on your blog I can tell you that this post isn’t referring at all, but when you featured the talk that John Britton gave about Twilio at NYTM that generated buzz and traffic that rivaled a TechCrunch story (need to find you a pretty graph). You made the post about an example of what you think is a good pitch, and I think people found that useful as a benchmark for their own behavior. It was a how-to post about startup stuff… and I love those.I really hope that you will continue to provide us with your unique thoughts, not a rundown of stuff people could find if they searched your portfolio companies. The coolest thing I can imagine you doing with Twilio, or any of the companies you work with, is live streaming video chats about different things like how to build a team or when to make a tough decision (first time firing someone, how to get into conferences for free, bootstrapped development with remote teams, etc.) I think in this way you can help the people at your portfolio companies contribute unique inside baseball type content that you won’t find on TechCrunch or event their own blogs. I’d definitely watch that…

    1. karen_e

      Wow, popped over to your LinkedIn. That is quite a resume, Danielle. (When people say the ‘youths’ in America are lazy, just send ’em over to Danielle.)

      1. Danielle Morrill

        Wow, thank you πŸ™‚

  30. JLM

    Writing as a VC almost requires a bit of insight into how your “day job” is going. To do otherwise would be like taking painting lessons from a prof and never seeing any of his work.The authority of your voice is only enhanced by the authenticity of your actual track record.You have made a huge investment in educating the masses in regard to an industry in which some, if not much, of the education you have provided borders on proprietary information — the quality of your writing is the hook which draws the crowd.Anyone who objects to your pimping your deals needs to go get a transfusion of a bit of capitalist blood.I think AVC is one of the best and unique — and successful — examples of clever, out of the box marketing. It establishes the reputation of your firm, elevates your physical presence in the industry as a gateway for deal flow. Pretty damn smart.It’s hard out there for a pimp.

  31. troygroberg

    I vote for a weekly or bi-weekly post where Fred highlights current happenings of portfolio companies. I know some people don’t come here for “advertisements” of Fred portfolio companies but I personally would like to see it. Keeping all the updates in one regularly schedule post should be able to keep folks like satisfied while not offending the Tech Crunch fans. @Evan Folio Friday does have a nice ring to it. @Fred Seeing how this community isn’t necessarily a democracy does my vote really count for anything?

  32. Ben Tseitlin

    i’d like to hear more about your portfolio companies when have news that you genuinely would like to long as it doesn’t feel like a commercial- I think it would be cool to hear what’s going on with them

  33. Fernando Gutierrez

    I’d love the updates as long as they are not just updates. As many have pointed before, if it’s gonna be like press releases, many will skip them. But I’m sure there are a lot of interesting stories about those companies that can be told here. They don’t have to be about their lattest feature, they can be about their early days or about their people. I guess that most of your readers are somehow involved with a star up (or plan/dream to be), so the inside stories can be of great use. The bad thing is that the things that interest us the most you probably can’t tell!Anyway, it’s your blog. You post everyday great content and involve yourself in the discussion. So if you ask me to read a press release sometimes in exchange for all of that, I will. Happily.

  34. Stanley Buchesky

    Your post prompted me to check out Boxee. My candid first impression is that they need to do a much better job of explaining what the product is and how it works.I spent about five minutes on the site, and I still don’t know what distinguishes Boxee from any other box. For example, the site says that people don’t like having to hook up their computers to a TV, but then it says you have to hook up your computer to Boxee, which then hooks into your TV. How it works is not clear. Do I have to use an old computer and leave it hooked up the whole time or is this my primary computer? How does Boxee get the content from my computer? One-time downloads and then updates or real-time, which requires my computer to be booted?You seem to be a pretty smart guy, so I’m assuming that if I really wanted to spend 10 more minutes on the Boxee site or searching on the internet, I would probably eventually figure out what’s special about this (yet another) set-top box, but given five minutes of investigation, which is more than most people will likely give, I don’t see why I wouldn’t want to just keep using my AppleTV.For what it’s worthy…

    1. fredwilson

      stanleyi’ve shared your comment with Boxee. thank you. it is very helpful.the boxee box does not need to be connected to your computer. you simply buy it, connect it to your TV and your internet and you are good to goboxee also has free software that you can download to your computer and do the same thing.i realize that having both is confusing.if you want to see what boxee is all about, you can download the software to your computer and use it right on your computer. then you can imagine what it would be like to have the boxee box connected to your TVhope that helps

      1. ShanaC

        The images on amazon show that pretty explicitly. It makes more sense visually

  35. vruz

    I think it’s great. As long as you’re dogfooding yourself, and you provide some insight on the evolution of these companies (not just a leaflet blurb) it’s something illustrative and educative for many.Nobody can complain about you being proud of the stuff you helped to bring into life.

  36. anshul

    i am in total agreement with Liad.:)-http://ideas8bottom.blogspo…

  37. 1099 tax

    enjoyed reading about the latest entries, gotta keep myself updated…

  38. paramendra

    Gave me a chuckle too. I think you should train more top tech entrepreneurs to blog like you do. I am surprised how few do. Actually I can’t think of ONE tech entrepreneur.

  39. George Coll

    It is great to hear of new innovations your portfolio companies have going on. Thank you for sharing.

  40. Mike


  41. Kelley Boyd @msksboyd

    Amigo, esto es realmente uncool. :>(((

  42. David Semeria

    Tos email: [email protected] hasto ben submittidoed allos engine dos spam.Gracias.

  43. Evan

    Y’all realize that it’s in portuguese?Eu falho un poco do portugues, mas nΓ£o tanto por tΓ£o dissimular bem. Muito melhor minho espanhol.

  44. Mike

    I did but clearly his intention was to advertise for his brokerage business rather than communicate with either Fred or this community, so my response was more sarcastic than anything else.If there was a spam button, I would have pushed that instead.

  45. Evan

    seems like a strange place for real estate agent spam, doesn’t it?

  46. fredwilson

    good suggestionright now only the moderator can nuke spamwhich i did

  47. Mike

    Yep. Especially portuguese spam.

  48. Matt A. Myers

    They need to work on their marketing bot’s relevancy filters!

  49. fredwilson

    yupmake money for your developers

  50. fredwilson

    i deleted that spam but it lives on in the replies to it!

  51. Dan

    Sounds like a startup waiting to happen.Just keeping it relevant, folks…