My Partners

It's friday so it's time for another suggested post from the amazing comment thread on the bloggers block post. Mark Suster suggested:

how about a post on your partners: who they are, how you guys work together & a bit more about how you guys reach decisions on deals?

I have two and half partners at Union Square Ventures.

Brad Burnham – Brad and I founded USV together in the summer/fall of 2003. We had both been in the venture business for more than a decade, had made a fair bit of money, but were still hungry to prove ourselves. Brad is the strategist and the most principled investor in our firm. It was Brad's idea to write a treatise on venture capital and the internet before we set off to raise our first fund and that exercise we did together continues to be our guding light. Brad is the person behind phrases like "the application layer of the technology stack" and "large networks of engaged users" that I use all the time. He gives me most of my good stuff which I often get credit for.

Albert Wenger – Albert was the President of Delicious until it was sold to Yahoo!. After that sale, he joined USV as a venture partner and as a general partner when we raised our second fund in 2008. I can't image operating USV wihtout Albert but we did for our first several years. Albert is hacker who still codes stuff up in his spare time. He's been a CTO, a VP Engineering, and has run businesses. And he is a great investor too. And he's the most underrated blogger in our firm. Albert has a very analytical mind, asks piercing questions, and thinks deeply about the web, its underlying technologies, and new business models.

John Buttrick – I can't link to John because he's managed to avoid any social media presence in his first fifty years on planet earth. We will get him on our website, but I'm not confident we will get him to do much more than that. John joined us officially in December when we raised our Opportunity Fund. You can read a bit about him in my post on the Opportunity Fund. John's been hanging around USV since formation advising us on legal, financial, and operational stuff. He's helping us evaluate the more established businesses we look at, but more than that he's helping us rethink the way we raise funds, structure funds, communicate with our investors, and run our firm. It's great having him around.

We run our busines in the model of the "sleepy little firm" that I spent my first ten years in the venture capital business with. We all work out of a single office. We have a total of six and half (John is half time) people at USV. It is quiet in the office on many days when we are out and about visiting companies. We value trust, respect, and consensus. We don't invest in companies that everyone is not 100% behind. We never vote. We don't exercise vetos. We don't yell. We don't blame each other for our failures, we blame our team, our process, and our collective decision making.

Many people think I am the "lead partner" at USV. That could not be further from the truth. Brad should get most of the credit for setting a strategy that we have executed very well. Albert should get the credit for steering us into new areas we would not have been in without him. I get to be the front man but that's really the easisest job in the partnership.

We are a true partnership where each person contributes deeply to our collective success. Trust and respect are the key operating words. And once a partner has worked one fund with us together, we are equal partners and share in the profits equally. We don't want to have too many partners and I don't think we will add many more. Maybe one more, maybe not. We will see. We are doing fine with the ones we have right now.

I love working in this partnership. It is easy, it works, and it has proven itself.