A Fun Talk This Morning

I met Scott Kurnit in the mid 90s when I had just started Flatiron Partners with Jerry. He pitched me on the Mining Company. I passed on it. We stayed friends and have both regretted that decision for the past fifteen years. Mining Company went on to become About.com which went public, was sold not once but twice, and has produced many amazing entrepreneurs and manager alums in the NYC tech scene.

It’s fun to think back to those days in 1995 and 1996 when there were so few people working in NYC tech and we had an inkling of what was going to happen. It did happen and NYC is a different place as a result.

This morning at 8:20am eastern I am going to talk to Scott for about 40 minutes at the Paley Center and it will be broadcast live on this URL.

Just think about that last bit “broadcasting live from the Paley Center on this URL.” That says it all. I hope you can log on and join us. It should be fun.


It was fun. Here’s the video. Also, William provided some cliff notes in the comments.

paleycenter on livestream.com. Broadcast Live Free

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. Julien

    Who is the better VC : the one who misses good deals because he picks his investments carefully or the one who invests in anything and doesn’t miss any good deal, along with all the lemons?Who has the best returns? Who helps the entrepreneurs the most? Who plays a better role in the industry?I have my answer…

    1. fredwilson

      maybe, but that was a seminal deal in its time and placei should have been in that one and i would have enjoyed working with scotthe built an amazing team

      1. baba12

        20 20 is Hindsight they say…The past is like used toilet paper flushed down, even if you get it back you can’t re-create the paper again.There is this general notion that we learn from our mistakes or past, maybe some do some don’t. But to be in the present it is very much possible that you had to go through those experiences.Possibly if you had made the deal and had made the gazillion dollahs you may not come across as being grounded and you would be hoitty toitty…So I think you have managed to pull it off with USV & every time I have seen you, it seems like a million people want a piece of you …

      2. awaldstein

        Everyone delves into wishful thinking at times. You can look at it as productive (which it is). As wistful ‘wish you had’ (which we all do). It’s just human nature. We may do less of it as we need the success less but we still do it. I’d bet, I’m not alone here.

      3. Julien

        Maybe that is the price you paid to be where you are today 🙂 How can one stay hungry when he succeeds 100% of the time?

        1. fredwilson

          Success is a drug. It makes you want more

          1. ShanaC

            it is a healthy one too, it makes you want to get up and do what you need to do every day

      4. Mark Essel

        I see the historical awesome in this, but what’s to stop you from future partnerships with Scott? I suffer hindsight wishful thinking far less than the distraction of multiple present and potential future opportunities.Missed the video, hope to read the text version later this week if there is one.

  2. lushfun

    hindsight is seductiveConsidering that a generation(15-20yrs) is almost over we might have a few more interesting things happen down the line.It would be nice if it was a physical tech instead of soft/internet tech that was the next generational cycle to have something similar to the internet. Perhaps nano and graphine will create a mini ripple in that world as they become adopted.

  3. kagilandam

    Some talk a lot about how they missed the flight (bus or train) and regret through out their life… from your post it is clear that “smart one’s have thousand opportunities and if you miss one you always have the rest 999 ” …

  4. William Mougayar

    We sure need the wisdom of those that were around and involved in 95-96 to carry the lessons forward and save us from another bubble. Amen

  5. reece

    “If you can’t keep the entrepreneur, why do the deal?”Gotta love Fred’s appreciation of the entrepreneur…

    1. fredwilson

      I got a bunch of good sound bites out today. Thinking back through the talkmy favorite is the one about teachers curriculum and classrooms.

      1. Jeff Pelton

        + 1 to the quote.I also hope there is real innovation in education soon. We have the technology. Now we just need to use it.

      2. reece

        I agree… I quoted one about women as managers on Twitter, too. Well done.[Again, for some reason, Disqus isn’t emailing me alerts on these responses, hence my tardiness…)

  6. Philip Baddeley

    Great talk and lots of information. Good for lunch break in Cambridge, UK!

    1. fredwilson

      How was the livestream quality?

      1. William Mougayar

        Broadcast quality was excellent from here. Only 2 blackouts of 10 seconds each, one of them during your classroom quote.

  7. William Mougayar

    I took notes. Here they are.SK: I read AVC every morning, before the New York Times. Fred turned me down 3 times, made me doubt myself most.FW: Laughs…SK: Summarize your thesisFW: We invest in large networks of engaged usersSK: Can media companies compete?FW: They have done a lot of interesting things in past 5 years. All big ideas start as little ideas. It’s very hard to get behind small ideas in big idea because of the economics.They have the balance sheets to fund these, but they can’t move the needle…it doesn’t matter enough to them.Big co’s aren’t the best at building small co’s but good at buying them, although they aren’t always good at assimilating them.Re: AOL’s dumping of Bebo’s after that acquisition “It’s criminal”Big Co’s have to learn how to keep the entrepreneurs. E.g. Quigo they didn’t take the founder.When people approach content, they don’t want to buy it necessarily. They want to be connected with content. They want to be connected with the story & idea, e.g. Kickstarter.com. People want to be connected, be part of it.In the world of digital media, there’s an opportunity to change the paradigm.SK: When did you say I want to put it all out there?FW: Aha moment was the morning after the Moveable Type party, when Nina asked me “Do you blog?”. The next day I was blogging.A word about….Yahoo: I don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish in that company. It’s not obvious to meMicrosoft:They might be getting their mojo backGoogle: Best acquirerFacebook: JuggernautTwitter:OpportunityViacom:CableTime Inc.: Still too much of a holding company. Too many companies no synergy.Comcast: Very challenged being plumbing to content companyRe: Net NeutralityIt’s criticalPermissionless innovation is the key thing. You can start serving users in your pyjamas. That’s why we’ve had so much innovation in past 15 years. We don’t want to end that.It’s a very political issue. Access providers made it about regulating Internet access vs. Internet.Why isn’t there more VC’s in NYC? It takes time. We’re in the 2nd decade of that in NYC.KC: About your enviable position in deal flow.FW: We’re losing deals now, because I’m cheap. I don’t want to pay more than value.KC: How much of investment is idea vs. the people? FW: Many of our investments are idea driven but it takes a special person to make it happen.KC: Why is there a lot of men?FW: Not enough women role models. I bet you the Faceook movie will inspire a lot of guys that want to emulate Zuckerberg.KC: Do you want more women as tech CEO?FW: Yes. Women are better natural managers. They have more empathy and deal with crisis better, but they aren’t as good risk takers. I’ve seen some founding teams as woman/man and thats’ very good.Q&A:I think that education is a media business. Look at education to see the future of the media business.Teachers are the talent. Their curriculum is the content, and classroom is the theatre. Education will be reshaped in same way as media business.KC: Is Facebook the new Google? Will people be searching more to get a personalized response?FW: I don’t think of them as a search and where the threat is. They’ve introduced a new paradigm because we’re going where the sharing is, and it’s taking some traffic away from Google.Twitter is architected like Google. Facebook is a more immersive experience. Twitter is more web-like.Re: Content being free. What’s cool about Kickstarter, if you’re a musician and raised 1/2 million to make a label, you don’t have to charge because you made your money.Question is how are content creators going to get paid, not content itself.Q: What are lessons learned regarding MySpace vs. Facebook.FW: You want to watch for platform collapse, like what’s about to happen with BlackBerry. You need to constantly be innovating with these platforms especially for developers. There is no milk it for 20 years. No 2nd chance.Sharing is something you do in 1 or 2 places. MySpace ceeded it to Facebook and to some extent Tumblr.KC: What is it with Tumblr? FW: We made the Tumblr, Zinga and Twitter investments about the same time in 2007. It was luck.I don’t want to be a hype artist, although I hype things sometimes.(My) kids spending more time on Tumblr than Facebook. Everybody in their schools are on Tumblr this year whereas they weren’t last year. Facebook hasn’t put a dent in Foursquare despite their check-in feature, and neither with Tumblr’s.KC: Do you agree with Zuckerberg that privacy is dead?FW: He’s right that most people don’t give a shit about privacy, but he’s wrong that many people do.Re: NYC. If they layed fiber for everybody, NYC would be the most creative and dominent in the next 100 years.Re: Identity control on the Internet.We don’t want any entity, government controlling the Internet, especially not identity. There is no centralized hub for anything.In closing.I wrote a little thing about this on my blog and said “broadcasting live from the Paley Center on this URL” and that was the amazing thing. KC: Paley is the museum of broadcasting.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      Thanks a lot for posting the Cliff Notes version of this.

    2. ShanaC

      thank you

    3. fredwilson

      thanks for doing that William. it’s a pretty good transcript.

      1. William Mougayar

        No prob. It was as if being there. I updated the education quote more accurately.

        1. fredwilson

          Teachers are talentCurriculum is contentClassrooms are the theater

          1. William Mougayar

            Shouldn’t classroom be “platform”, if we think of the media analogy which you correlated education to.

          2. fredwilson

            theater is easier for me to wrap my head around

          3. Gunnar Larson

            Fed, thank you for answering my question today around education. Around theater, we also own the number one Broadway/theater site in the world which we are very proud of. I hope you have a wonderful start to your New Year. – Gunnar, NetworkGlobal Companies

          4. Dave Pinsen

            Classrooms are theater: something class clowns intuitively understand.

        2. rahuliffic

          I think it was Teachers are the talent, curriculum the content and classroom the theater.oops…didnt see fred replied already.

      2. Dave W Baldwin

        You should send William a shiny dime.

    4. George A.

      thanks for this!

    5. elephantidae

      Wow the cliff notes are better than the post! Better watch out Fred 😉

    6. awaldstein

      Thanks for doing this!

    7. Senith @ MBA tutor

      Thanks Will!

  8. Renato Valdés Olmos

    Enjoyed your answers very much, especially those answered to frequent ‘generic’ questions from the audience: insightful and future proof.

  9. kirklove

    Very enjoyable talk. Thanks for updating with the vid.

  10. im2b_dl

    Yes Fred… beyond loved this… …shd say…though, free content will almost always win and the only way to do that is via subsidy or integrated retail (and a little old school advertising) unfortunately for tech/web platforms that means content architecture is inherently needed in the mix to control where that retail/advertising goes that works for instigation.But I agree heavily/wholeheartedly distribution isn’t always a comfortable match with content. …but again… the tv networks did both at their fastest growth periods. ..so… a lot to think about.But I loved this video can’t thank enough.DL

  11. Rachel Haot

    Great talk. Especially appreciated your comments on education’s social media opportunity. Will be experimenting with this heavily in my course at Columbia Business School (http://socialstartup.tumblr….Also, to speak to your point on how far NYC tech has come: Livestream, the service that streamed your talk, was born and built in this city.

    1. fredwilson


    2. William Mougayar

      I was quite impressed by the stream quality actually. There were 149 users during that interview.

  12. LIAD

    cool interview.like how you and Scott bounce off each other.New paradigm in buying and selling gets my juices flowing.

  13. George A.

    Fred, a few weeks ago, while discussing the surge in recent valuations, you defended Facebook at $50bn as the “exception to the rule.” above, you say: “(My) kids spending more time on Tumblr than Facebook. Everybody in their schools are on Tumblr this year whereas they weren’t last year.”I just wonder, despite the network effects that afford these businesses their explosive growth potential, they struggle to retain an enduring value proposition (when was the last time you got an “evite”?), yet your $50bn Facebook valuation implies that there is not only enduring growth from here, a path to increased monetization but also that there is a long tail of engagement from its installed base of users. …I struggle to understand how this can be such a compelling area to invest in when the community has proven time and time again to be fickle. Can you think of one online network service that has been successful at catering to both the early adopters as well as a large installed base of users for a prolonged period? I can only think of examples to the contrary.

    1. fredwilson

      i also called facebook a juggernautfacebook may be the most important company on the web right nowbut even so, they cannot stop the growth of other similar services

      1. George A.

        Sorry, I want trying to “out” you on dissing facebook, I was only trying to understand how you get comfortable that these services will have an enduring value proposition as it feels like the flock can move rather quickly away from you.Btw, it looks like time magazine shares your assessment.—– Reply message —–

  14. paramendra

    “The biggest gift to American business today.” Impressive praise. Education Is Media, Action Is Thought http://goo.gl/fb/DkPjp

  15. Brandon Kessler

    Great interview. Zynga feels somewhat traditional in that their content is hits driven, but games rather than TV shows, records, movies, books, etc.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree with that observation

  16. Michael Weiss

    Fred,Is it better to be ‘cheap’ with dollars than ‘cheap’ with everything else? I guess you’ve answered that.Great stuff, especially teachers/curriculum/classroom. Brilliant!

  17. Duncan Logan

    Loving the cliff notes, I wish Disqus put a box for cliff notes under peoples comments. Then someone could take a long winded comment and cut it to the chase. It would make reading AVC a lot quicker and help commenter’s focus….. I’ll stop now….

  18. @msg

    to add to the mgic of this livestream video: i just watched it on my boxee box and dropping this comment as it projects on my wall.

    1. fredwilson

      oh hell yeah

  19. RichardF

    Excellent relaxed talk Fred, Scott did a great job.Interesting to know that you passed on the Huffington Post.

  20. kenberger

    My “add to boxee” bookmarklet doesn’t work on this page?! ouch!