Going Out On Top
Last night we went up to Madison Square Garden with some friends to see James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem go out on top. For those not into LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy is a producer and record label owner who started LCD Soundsystem as a project in the early part of the last decade. They put out three records, each one besting the one before. The most recent came out last year and was one of the top records of the year.
Then, at the top of their game, LCD decided to call it quits. They played four shows this past week at Terminal 5, and then played their last show ever at The Garden last night. It's over now.
As we watched the band put on a fantastic show last night, I was thinking about going out on top. So few manage to do it. Shaq is warming the bench in Boston. Brett Favre should have called it quits after he threw the pick in OT against the Saints. The Stones haven't written a great song in thirty years. The money and the burning desire to "win another one" drives the great ones to stick around too long.
And I wondered if the rules of the entertainment and sports world can be applied to venture capital and startups. Is there a time to call it quits in business? I look at Warren Buffett and Rupert Murdoch and I see individuals still enjoying the work and delivering for their shareholders and investors into their 80s.
But I also look around the venture capital business and I see investors who were at the top of their games in the 90s struggling to remain relevant. And I think about how I want to manage this issue myself.
How do you know when you've done your last great startup? How do you know when you've done your last great investment? How do you know when you don't have the drive, hunger, and insights to keep delivering top performance?
Right now, coming off two weeks of totally relaxing vacation with my family, I find myself up early, thinking, writing, and planning. I don't sense it is yet time to hang up my cleats or walk of the stage like James Murphy did last night. But the thought is in my mind and I want it to stay there. The investment business is not easy. You are only as good as your last trade, fund, or year. And the venture capital business is particulary tricky. All the returns in the business accrue to the top ten or, at best, twenty percent of investors. When you lose your edge, your performance suffers, often badly. But it can take a decade for the rest of the world to notice because there is so much latency in the venture capital business.
I don't want to be the investor who sticks around milking the investors for fee income and raising funds based on returns that are over a decade old. That's a Rolling Stones move and it is not for me. I'd prefer to do what James Murphy and his band did last night.
The reward is in the process, not in whatever you “reach”. If you enjoy doing it, keep on doing it!
Fred,doesn’t one need help to detect the peak? A business partner, spouse/partner or coach may help there. For me like Julien wrote the lack of fun will be the warning light…
the gotham gal has always been the one to help me see things straight
You have a long career left. It’s all up to you. As long as you enjoy it and still have the drive, the rest will come together. Plus, you deal with constant change. It’s not like you have to torture yourself for thirty years trying to write another Exile on Main Street.
Hi Fred. This is an example from “creative writing” a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert: http://www.ted.com/talks/la……but it reminded me on your post. Our successful and unsuccessful moments are hard to predict as they highly depend on other people’s decisions. All we can do is keep on doing what we believe in.
Call it quits once you think you know everything -when startups stop inspiring you, when the things that you love and admire in other aspects of you life no longer motivate you to be a better business person.Your imagination makes you great. Without these things you are without a muse.-Marcus
Murphy wrote a brilliant lyric that sums up “the Stones move” perfectly on Losing My Edge: “I’m losing my edge / to better-looking people / with better ideas / and more talent / And they’re actually really, really nice”. Great track from a great band.
that was one of the final songs of the main set. it was a poignant moment in a poignant night
And now for a brief musical interlude.The Clash – Should I stay or should I go – http://snd.sc/gX1eRf
nice!if i go there will be trouble and if i stay there will be double
hahah… well played.
Reminds me of the High Fidelity clip, “Is it better to burn out than to fade away?”http://www.youtube.com/watc…
After reading the first 3 paragraphs, I thought you were announcing the coming end of avc…that got me scared until I read until the end.Now is not your time, that at least everybody knows !
i’ve thought about it many timesbut i don’t think i could do my job without AVC
I’ll tell you something Fred. I’ve known about you for many years now but I’m a relative newcomer to AVC. I knew you blogged and everything but usually only heard bits and pieces that were controversial enough to go viral.Now that I’ve come to see the community that you curate (yeah I said it) here at AVC… okay cultivate here at AVC, I’ve got news for you: Your actual job is over here. What you do at Union Square is just how you monetize your insights. Over here is where you sharpen your saw.I find it impressive that essentially your whole family blogs. I can only imagine the constant clanking of keys at the Wilson household. ;P
Great commentary. One other thing to consider: the great acts, including the Stones, knew how to reinvent themselves from one album to the next – at least when they were still great. From Beggars Banquet to Exile to Some Girls is a world of difference. I wonder if the same also applies to venture investing. Which is to say, the issue may not only be one of quitting at the top, but knowing how/when to change direction in order to maintain an edge.
Great topic for a Sunday morning muse.We do things till they don’t feel right anymore.Rocky Balboa, against all expectations proved to be a great flic and covered this well:http://www.imdb.com/title/t…
Hi Fred, First off if you hang up your cleats anytime soon, we’re all going to be very sad. :(But putting that aside, your comment reminds me of something a little obscure but I’d like to share it with you here…It is something that was taught to me by Deepak Chopra and it was a great gift to receive this and to be able to pass it on. The language of the ancient Indian mystics is Sanskrit. One of the most famous Vedic Sanskrit works is something called The Vedas. I realize this is a far-from-mainstream reference but stick with me.You see, The Vedas are an ancient compendium of knowledge of the ages passed on by the Brahmin (teachers of knowledge). “Adhyapana” is one of the six duties of the Brahmin. It literally means “imparting” or “to teach.” In the Vedic tradition, there is a saying that translates to English as “EVER THE STUDENT.” It relates precisely, believe it or not, to the subject of going out on top.The interpretation is that a Brahmin should only impart the knowledge so long as and only for the length of time that they are also in a state of learning.The moment the teacher feels they know everything and therefore have nothing to learn, they instantly cease to be qualified to teach. And if they instruct and are no longer learning as they instruct, then too, they are no longer deemed to be teachers. Put directly, the role of a teacher involves also being a student… always learning… Ever the Student.So as long as you keep waking up asking questions and posing them to people here on AVC and beyond, guess what? You’re still a teacher, my friend. It is the morning you don’t have anymore questions and you feel like you know everything there is to know such that you have nothing to impart, that is the precise moment when you should hang up the cleats and be proud of what you achieved — not only imparting knowledge to others but in activating the consciousness of those around you and nurturing a quest for knowledge in the world.But even that isn’t even the coolest part…”Ever the Student” is also a blessing. May you live every day of your life always in that state where you have something yet to learn and yet to impart. Because doing what you love and what you’re loved for to your dying day… now THAT’S “Going Out On Top!””Ever the Student” to you, Fred. 🙂
that is a great comment Robert. and i agree about learning and teaching.they do go hand in hand
awesome comment Robert 🙂 thanks so much!
Kasparov is another great example, and I think it’s more challenging to quit being the top player in a game like chess that on anything else! because you know you’re the only one in the first place. Another example is Bill Gates.I believe that sometimes being on top is a trap and it’s very difficult to “think outside the success box” even if you continue to break records.In the scientific field there is a very quoted text from Richard Hamming about the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…””” The great scientists often make this error. They fail to continue to plant the little acorns from which the mighty oak trees grow. They try to get the big thing right off. And that isn’t the way things go. So that is another reason why you find that when you get early recognition it seems to sterilize you. In fact I will give you my favorite quotation of many years. The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, in my opinion, has ruined more good scientists than any institution has created, judged by what they did before they came and judged by what they did after. Not that they weren’t good afterwards, but they were superb before they got there and were only good afterwards. —Richard Hamming, You and Your Research, 1986″””
gates and kasparov are really good examples
I just found a great video of Kasparov at Google on 2010 and talking a little about this subject too (around 20′): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…
You should go now because you’re an Android-fanboy-Apple-hatter-your-data-is-biased-very-evil-person! 🙂 (those who didn’t follow yesterday’s post, go check… smartphones are the new religion).Envy is killing me for that concert.
that stuff fires me up. i get off on it.
that one is surprisingly easy to answer. If what you do still ignites your heart, keeps you energized and relentlless, then it is still the right thing to do. Listen to your heart, not your brain on this one.
I was there too. I didn’t learn any lessons; I was focused on listening to the bangin’ beats live and grinding with two Swedish girls.
sounds like a great time!!
Isn’t “Going Out on Top” the same as “Fear of Failure”?If the reason to quit something is just because you want to leave on top thats stupid. If Shaq is enjoying being part of the Celtics even if he comes off the bench and contributes a few good mins, then he should do it.The problem with Brett Farve was never that he stayed too long, it was that he left the Packers hanging in uncertainty every off season whether he would come back. The he wanted to be traded to a division rival. then he went to the Jets for a year and screwed the coach. And then he went to the Vikings and did what ever he wanted. If Farve played for as long as he wanted but worked like Peyton Manning, he would still have left on top in people’s mind.Bill Gates left MSFT because building a software company was not challenging enough for him or not intellectually stimulating anymore. If he still enjoyed doing it and left just to Leave on Top, that would have been stupid too. :)My 2 cents. Dont worry about leaving on top, leave when your job doesn’t make you excited to wake up in the morning. When that happens quit and find something else. 🙂 This is probably the same advice you would have given anyone else on a different day. 🙂
the answer to your first question is yes, at least it is part of it
JUST DONT QUIT!
It takes motivation and guts and a foolish love for your field to end up warming the bench while twiddling your championship rings, or to find yourself playing songs you wrote 45 years ago to capacity crowds in Auckland and Slovenia. It is less often, I think, for mercenary or pecuniary motives, and more frequently the passion that burns too bright, if not too wisely.“Rage, rage against the dying of the light”, indeed.I love the philosophical point you’ve raised here, and I’m going to ponder it in relation to Betty White — whose 88th year revival satisifies and celebrates our need to know that renewal happens — in contrast to the wretched Aging Al Pacino, whose shouting across two millennia shall tarnish the name of our era to untold future generations.We are glad that Betty stayed, and wish that Pacino would go. What makes the difference?
great mention of betty white!
Fred,Those who make tons of money (Musicians, Athletes, Biz Execs and VC’s) can do something others can’t. They can go do something else with their talents and money. The can live many lives.Bill Gates is a perfect example.There is too much life to lead in a lifetime to dedicate it to just one thing. I think everyone who can, (it’s too bad most people can’t do this) need to live multiple lives, do different things, commit to something different. Different lives can mean charity, a new business, teaching, politics, etc.The Stones, Brette Favre, etc. don’t know anything else because they weren’t looking for their next life. They don’t know what else to do. Those that leave on top, already knew what their next life was going to be and it was an easy transition.Fred, start designing your next life, (music, teaching, you’d make a great teacher, traveling charity or whatever) and you’ll know when is when. You will leave on top!Great post.
Your every word in this post is going to be parsed, but you know that.Future headline on TechCrunch:”Boom. Fred Wilson Calls It Quits”Future headline on Business Insider:”Here’s Why Fred Wilson Is Calling It Quits”Future headline on Mashable:”Top 10 reasons Fred Wilson is Quitting”
Went to the second Terminal 5 show and you’re not kidding – as good a show as I’ve seen from a group totally in their prime. The thing is James does so many things and has DFA and all that going on so I don’t see this as a retirement in the traditional sense. He’ll focus on other things, maybe start a new collective of some kind..whatever. It’ll be interesting.Whereas Brett Favre, Stones, etc. .. not sure what else they got going on these days besides sexual harassment and Grammys cameos.I think it’s about putting yourself in a position so that you feel like you can move on when it feels right and have interesting new endeavors waiting for you, instead of feeling like you’re ‘going out’ per se.
great point Ro
Barry Sanders style – go out on top.
have to give you props for referencing barry sanders. espn recently did a top 10 NFL players of all time type of list and sanders did NOT make it. football blasphemy as far as i’m concerned.although if sanders really wanted to go out on top, he should have stuck around till he got the NFL rushing record, even if it were to be broken shortly thereafter. i think there were some contractual issues in sanders case that prevented him from continuing.
i had a paragraph in my post about sanders. i took it out. it wasn’t working from a flow perspective. he did it right in my book
Dear Fred,You are arguably the best VC of the last decade, so it would be a shame if you hang up your cleats. What is also so remarkable is that having met you in 2003/2004, all your successes–Twirtter, Zynga, Etsy, tumblr amongst others–came out of your original, bold thesis. It was not happenstance. I am sure that with Stackoverflow, Twilio, and Foursquare and many other amazing companies in your portfolio, you will continue to have a great eye for and access to the very best entrepreneurs and companies.You do, however, bring up an outstanding philosophical point. Having dominated an era, it is very hard to be relevant in next era. Arguably less than five–perhaps as few as 3–VC firms that had the best results in 1990’s were able to carry over their relevance to mobile, social and web investing that generated the outsize returns in the last decade.I think that in the future it will become even harder to sustain relevance. The issue is that for the next decade, the most disruptive and impactful VC’s may not be traditional VC’s. Already the two Paul’s, Graham and Bucchiet, and YC are on trajectory which some would argue would be on track to help start some of the best tech companies. Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing some of the best and brightest Computer Science students at MIT and Stanford. Surprisingly, none of them had heard of traditional VC’s but for each with out exception Paul Graham was icon and a role model, both technical and entrepreneurial. However, models such as YC’s are not accesible to traditional LP’s or effectively packaged into traditional VC fund models.Yes, there are precedents of VC’s successfully transitioning from one decade to the next. Just as Accel invested in one of the first deals in social web by investing in Facebook in 2000’s, they also made one of the first venture capital investments in the Internet in the 90’s UUNET. They were introduced to UUNET through Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus. UUNET not only made money for Accel, it was one of the first and best venture capital investments in the Internet. In Accel’s case, they invested $4 million in UUNET in 1993. At one point after the mergers with MFS and later WorldCom, the as-carried value of the $4M investment for Accel was well over $1 billion.And there are precedents of courageous VC’s going out at the top. Having invested in some of the best companies of 90’s including Brocade Communications Systems (BRCD), Ariba (ARBA), and Juniper Networks (JNPR), Crospoint Ventures was one of the best-performing firms of its time. One of its funds, raised in 1996, turned $100 million into $4 billion for its LP’s. Easily raising a $1Billion in 2001, Crosspoint upon reflection returned the money to their LP’s and called it quits in 2002….going out on top.
I love how crosspoint did that
This post surprised me, but I salute the frankness. You have had enough big hits that money is not an issue, you are set for life in that department. Maybe you are ripe for a career change.
I was at the show and had many of the same thoughts. Glad you wrote this post. Woke up this AM wondering what James Murphy is thinking…Relief? Exhilaration? Did I make a mistake? It would be great to hear his thoughts in about 3 months. Although, the dude is super creative and it’s not likely we’re seeing the last of him at all. In that regard, Fred, he’s not really “going out.” All along he’s said that this is simply the end of his project called LCD Soundsystem. My sense is he’s got some really interesting things lined up…not a “pure exit” to cop some venture language.You might want to consider Mark E. Smith of The Fall and one of James’ true inspirations. While The Fall have lived on for some 30 years, it is MES’ continued reinvention of The Fall that has kept him relevant. So, for him, the band is simply a vessel where he constantly evolves. I believe Murphy is doing the same thing but his vessel is DFA records, not LCD Soundsystem. Going “out on top” seems a tad crass…almost as if you’re claiming you beat the system and left behind the shenanigans for the suckers. Maybe Union Sq is a vessel that can evolve as well since we all know Yr City’s For Suckers.
That’s a great perspective on James Murphy and creativity
You chose to play in the Seed & A segments (mostly), & you chose to stick with “large networks of engaged users”, and that’s where there’s the most risk and high expectations, but also where the sharpness of your edge makes a big difference in your performance. So, I can see that it could become tiring to always be ahead of the pack especially with the head winds that come with it.Do you think that if you shifted your focus to B & C rounds, then the pace and demands would slow down and allow you to stay in the game much longer?
Maybe. But I’d rather quit than do that. To use Donna’s metaphor from theother day, that is surfing someone else’s wave
Good point. But don’t quit on us, yet!
Plus there are many other cool vocations you could pursue and you may find the challenge of doing those new things even more stimulating than your current profession. I have spent so much time thinking about how to best create meaning from my life. How I want my career to evolve and change.I hope people see this post and really take it to heart. So few of the people who read this blog remember FlatIron Partners. They don’t realize that your rose and fell and rose again. That you have the context to understand that a post like this can only be written when you have seen the top, bottom, and everything in between.I appreciate it because ours is an industry with exceptional forward-looking DNA. Mostly this kinetic behavior serves us well. However, very few of even the veteran Internet people spend time thinking about the past. We are so busy with the future, that pausing to gain context can feel like an opportunity lost.You paused in this post. Perhaps it will trigger others to reflect as well.
more people than you think remember flatiron. i got hit with this tweet tonight.http://twitter.com/#!/Sammy…i decided to respond. maybe not so smart. but this stuff matters to me. a lot.
Success and failure should never dictate when to hang up your cleats. The time to go is when the passion is gone.People who achieve success, do it for the love of what they do. When that lovin’ feelin’ is gone, what’s the point? Without passion, one is going through the motions; doing a task.When you love of what you do, it’s like spring fever. This is the career advice I gave our three kids: do what you love, figure out how to make money at it, and do it with people you love being with.Life without passion is death.
Bill Watterson, of Calvin and Hobbes fame, broke my 7-year-old heart in 1995 by calling it quits after 10 years. But I have never, when reading through his collections, been reminded of Peanuts–a similar strip that lost it’s appeal many years before Schulz finished his career.Just like them, you do a form of art. But I imagine that it became “just a job” for both of them; and one kept going and the other didn’t. Don’t quit your art too soon, or hundreds of young entrepreneurs like me will lose out on your advice–but don’t lead us along until we find out by ourselves that you’ve just been “doing a job.”
that’s the fear.
Fred – a great post as usual.As a VC, my contention for a while has been that a perfect venture partnership is designed to last 3 or 4 funds if everything goes perfectly and returns are great for the firm. Generational transfer usually does not work (with some rare and noteworthy exceptions like Greylock and Sequoia).3 to 4 funds translates to 10-15 years of active investing – which is perfect. It aligns with age as well (new firms often are started by people in their late 30s to mid-40s who would invest until their mid to late 50s and then hang it up). It also aligns with with the growth portion of the technology cycles like those that Carlotta Perez describes.Technology is just changing too fast and the ability to judge those changes becomes harder and harder for investors who are “slowing down” in life.While data shows that historically, persistence has been a factor in both top and bottom quartile venture returns, I am starting to think that this association will no longer hold true going forward.The VC industry’s returns would be much healthier if LPs recognized this as well and gave more chances to “first time funds”
why does generational transfers not work.And why are we assuming it is slowing down and not transtioning?
the best invesment firms are a small collection of partners, usually founding partnersthey are not companies or intsitutionsimagine Berkshire Hathaway without Buffett and Munger
sokol was under discussion until recently. Jamie Dimon made a big difference without the original JP Morgan.It just takes a lot of effort.
i’ve noticed the same patterns bijan.
Most of the best work you will ever do in the investment business — as a principal — will be between 35-50. You have learned your craft, you have perfected your work habits, you have confidence but not the brashness of youth and you have the beginnings of wisdom.In the ages of 50-65, you will do your very best in developing talent, being a rainmaker, leveraging relationships and injecting the restraining force of wisdom into the deliberations of the 35-50 year olds. You will still hit the odd long ball with men on base.There are seasons to a man’s life and to his business life.The key is not to hang it up, but to start hitting from the “gentlemen’s tees”.
Based on the evidence of the past 10 to 20 years most big musical acts do the “last” show in order to set up the reunion tour or performance that inevitably comes within the next 3 to 5 years. As any good capitalist knows scarcity can create value if properly exploited. The question will be for LCD Soundsystem is not whether they are doing this knowingly but more properly will they take advantage of what they have set up? I am sure if asked now, they would say definitely no, but as the months go by the pull will increase for them to say yes.
my son Josh asked me this question the other dayi posted about that conversation on my tumbloghttp://fredwilson.vc/post/4…
A very good response, let’s hope you are right.
I hope this doesn’t mean you are retiring anytime soon. Startup world needs you.
not retiring. just thinking outloud on a sunday morning about how hard it is to stay on top.
what is success? when are you successful? what is on top?it’s being the best at what you’re focusing on, right?feeling is failure, fear of failure – it’s all expectations basedmantras and affirmations can be great; i don’t like power affirmations – i think they’re terrible for a person – but there are many others.. “i am _______”
BE ON TOP OF WHAT?ME, GRIMLOCK, JUST WORRY ABOUT BE BEST GRIMLOCK. NOT WORRY ABOUT TOPS OF THINGS.SUCCESS NOT ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE. IT JUST ABOUT YOU.
A Surprising Blog Post From Fred Wilson http://goo.gl/fb/zcwob
It’s so hard to decide when to quit the game, but I think the people who do it best are the ones who transition into new roles – staying involved in the game, but using their wisdom more appropriately.People who reach the top of their game have so much experience and knowledge that their greatest gift can be sharing it back to the rest of the world.Examples: rappers/musicians who become producers, athletes who become coaches, authors who become professors…Venture Partner is the most natural fit for a VC, but somehow I think you’ll find a way to do it differently… how does “Professor Wilson” sound?
not so great. that’s my dad, not me.i like what Charles Barkley has donei might be wrong. but i doubt it 🙂
:)for everyone who’s wondering what Fred’s talking about…http://www.youtube.com/watc…**
note to self:avoid tech rags RSS feeds tomorrow with out of context headlines……
The only VC to go out on top was Crosspoint. Got commitments for a billion dollar fund at the top of the bubble and decided to not move forward. They decided it was all just crazy. Cashed out together (heard each GP bought $300M in treasuries). Some of the partners continue to work with portfolio companies from older funds but they have not been living on management fees for a long time.
and i respect that move as much as any move I’ve ever seen in the VC business
Ho, while uncommon in VC, it happens often enough in PE and Hedge Funds. Ashish Gupta, the Founder of Chrys Capital, announced his retirement at age 41 a couple of months ago, after having formed one of the best performing PE funds in India.
Jim Rogers was even younger when he retired from hedge fund investing, I think.
When I first read this I agreed with you… then I thought about it a little bit and something dawned on me – how many times have you heard working class people say how much they’d love to have enough money in the bank to stop doing what they do to earn a living? So as much as Brett Favre hung on too long, and Tattoo You was the last great thing from the Stones, they don’t need to do it for the money. They do it because they LOVE IT – because they can’t imagine life without it, because of the drive, the energy, the adrenaline rush they get from being the best. Folks that are simply working to earn a living don’t love it and certainly aren’t striving to be the best. So, for them, the adrenaline rush isn’t there at all – it’s simply a means to an end.The top performers in our world always share the same story – they practiced more than the next guy, studied longer, just wanted it more. I don’t know that there is an OFF switch to that kind of personality. I hope (as you do) that I know when to call it quits, but will I really be able to if the fire is still burning?
Robert Fripp wrote this after his final performance last December.http://www.dgmlive.com/diar…”As long as I felt it necessary for KC music to enter the world, I was prepared to take on pretty much whatever nonsense came with it. < > A grief of expectations, conventionality, conflicting demands – a younger Fripp would have dealt with it, and suffered. An older Fripp chooses his suffering more carefully.”
Agree to the milking investor part but not sure if I like the sports analogy. If you like what you are doing and still serve your team (which you are arguably doing if they keep you on the bench) that is a win-win situation for all. It is called love of the game (which I respect far more than someone too obsessed with their self-image).
sometimes you just have to mix it up a bit…..the impression I have got from the last few months is that you are maybe stuck in a bit of rut.For a start have you thought about not blogging on the weekend?
not very sure that´s the solution… Fred currently needs to post as much as I need to breathe ;-). Up until he is in the VC business he will share and I would argue that when he finally decides to retire, he will share even more
Let’s hope it’s a long, long time before you call it a day.
And you could be a warren buffett too.Part of the problem is as a society we don’t celebrate an active aging process (though my feeling is the baby boomers will try)I remember that at the Academy awards, Eli Wallach presented. And he just did a great closing scene in WS2.Stay busy and stay learning!
I would add this to the long string of excellent comments to today’s piece:”Going Out On Top” is certainly a concept that is defined by others – and only in a historical context.Recently, it would be hard to argue with the financial success of your investments in Twitter, Zynga and others – but the question is whether these companies have developed as well as YOU believe they could. Have they been as successful an organization as YOU could possibly help build. If so, then you are on top.If not, then there’s more work to do.Maybe the Stones just think that there’s one more great show in them – so they just keep going – and maybe Daft Punk just wasn’t playing in James Murphy’s House anymore.The way I see it, if you feel you have more to contribute – even if others judge you to be done – then you should keep showing up and doing the work.Reminds me of the great quote: “Alexander wept for there were no more worlds to conquer”In VC, there’s always another world to conquer. The question is whether you have the drive and the inquisitiveness to keep going.
Interesting counterpoint, I just sang with our choir Mozart’s Requiem, twice in a row, this morning. The director stacked it so we had 34 singers and 10 professional musicians. It was magnificent.It is perhaps the most beautiful choral piece of all time. Any musician worth their salt loves to come together for Requiem.It also killed Mozart.Much of what was in the movie Amadeus is myth but here’s what’s true.Count Frankz von Walseff anonymously commissioned a Requiem in honor of his young wife, who’d recently died.Mozart was already ill and was financially destitute. So he had to say yes. Who knows if he was passionate about it or not; he definitely needed the money and the commission would be paid half up-front.He wrote most of it from his sick bed. Along the way he feared it was being written for his own funeral.On Dec. 4, 1791 friends gathered around his bed to sing music from Requiem. The last measures he wrote were from “Lacrimosa” — some of the most famous and hauntingly beautfiul in the choral repertoire. He died on Dec. 5. They indeed sang Introitus: Requiem and Kyrie at his funeral.In fact he died with it unfinished, his wife, still desperate for money, had one of his students finish it.She delivered it to the Count. She snuck 2 extra copies, one of which she had delivered to the King of Prussia. Very smart of her, as von Walsegg’s copy lay unrecognized for many years thereafter.So my personal take on the talented person doing it for the money? It’s ‘who cares?’. Seriously.If the Stones, or Cher or the panflute lady or Siegfried & Roy can still get fans to pay, I say, damn good for them. I hope they do what they love til the day they die.And sometimes world-changing brilliance comes from all kinds of circumstances, including doing it for the money.
That was a remarkable reference, Tereza. Thank you.Interestingly, I had always viewed Mozart’s death as tragic. I would not have thought of him as someone who went out on top. But then I just realized something reading your words.First off, candidly, I didn’t know the details of that story as well as you do. I only knew what I learned from the excellent movie, “Amadeus”. But the big take away of the message I got from your post was this…That EVEN with a tragic passing like his, what most people know of him literally HUNDREDS of years after he was writing music, is that he was one of the greatest composers who ever lived. And nearly 220 years after he wrote the Requiem, you, a person he could never possibly have met, sang his music twice in a row this very morning.From that I get, it almost doesn’t matter how you go out. What matters most is what you did with your life while you were still “in.” Thanks again for the brilliant reference and the touching post.
Exactly. I don’t think it matters how you go out, and it absolutely doesn’t matter what other people think.The only thing that matters is that you’re passionate about the ‘art’ that you are doing. Lose your passion for it — that’s when it’s time to leave.
Interestingly he died on my birthday, well, the month and day aspect I mean.Apart from that, clearly the depth and breadth of some givers puts them in our minds forever, and deservedly so.
i hear you tereza, but it bothers me that people still pay to see the stones
Ha!For the record, I have never, ever paid to see the stones.I did pay to see the reunion of the police. I regretted it, deeply.
i was offered free tickets to see The Police reunion touri declinedyou couldn’t pay me to see that
lotta miles on that chassis
I think I was the youngest person there.
For the record, I snuck in to see the Stones @ the Academy of Music in NYC. Brian Jones was with the band.I was very young; they were great. I still remember them playing Not Fade Away to this day.
now that is awesome
Fred…This inspired me to list the other four in the top five early music great moments for me.The other four are:-Janis and Big Brother doing “Ball and Chain” at Newport.-Hendrix and the Experience doing “Foxy Lady” somewhere in a club downtown. Club eludes me, felt like being on a different planet then and now.-Cream doing “Sunshine of your love” at the Eng lecture hall auditorium in Athens, Ohio,and the wildest-Junior Wells with the Buddy Guy band playing the 24 hour long xmas party at Goddard College in Plainfield Vermont buried under gobs of snow. Big blur.You love music Fred so thought you’d appreciate these.
wow, wow, wow, wow
I confess I paid to see the Stones a couple tours ago. It was not great as it probably was 30 years ago, but I was 3 then, so no way I could have made it! They didn’t play most of my favourite songs, but I still could see them perform, so I don’t really regret it.Another group I see following the same path is U2… Generally I feel that the biggest the screens and fireworks in any given concert, the stepper the decline.
i saw U2 twice.first time was their first concert in the US in 1980. it was incredible.Bono was amazing running around the stage singing I WIll Follow. i wasstunned. i had no idea what hit me.second time was at MSG a few years ago. it sucked
BTW, do you know that Mick Jagger was a Chartered Financial Surveyor and has been a brilliant investor of the Stones’ money? All domiciled on the Channel Islands. He’s a freakin’ tax accountant!
Fred, I’m a huge fan of yours. And I agree with 99% of what you say / write. And I usually agree with your musical opinions every bit as much as I agree with your insights into technology.But I have to take issue with your indictment of the Rolling Stones. True, Mick & Keith are not writing music of nearly the same caliber anymore (and if you want to know why, you should listen to the audiobook on itunes of Keith’s biography — Life — it’s brilliant). But that’s just the half of it. The Rolling Stones are the greatest rock and roll band in the world not only because of their songwriting, but because of their performances. And by that measure, they’re still near their prime. If you evaluate them as performers instead of just as songwriters, I think you end up with a much more sympathetic review of their current condition, and they no longer become a good example of someone who has continued to perform after their peak.
the Stones of Get Yer Ya Yas Out just don’t exist anymorecompare that performance with Shine A Light
Sang this in college, still find myself humming it every now and then.
And I must say, if I ever doubted how un-hip I was, the fact that I had never heard of LCD Soundsystem confirmed it for me. I thought Fred was announcing an investment in a music hardware business, and I was perplexed.
get the second record, Sound Of Silverhttp://www.amazon.com/Sound…that’s what hooked me. it’s a great recordi think the most recent one is even better, but i also think sound of silver is how you should discover them
Thanks for the tip. Getting it now
This is one of only three songs I know by LCD Soundsystem, but it’s a pretty good, IMO:http://www.youtube.com/watc…
You sing? You dawg, John. Holding back on me. what part?
Past tense, I sang. Tenor. Was a really big part of my life through college.
It’s so easy to start up anytime. Obviously key is finding a group you like.As your muscle memory comes back you’ll find like good wine your voice has benefited from age. Maybe less lightness on top but much more richness and strength in the middle.If you’re a good sight-reader you can get away with not too many rehearsals (who has time?).Usually for the complex pieces they’ll superimpose your part on a CD (which of course i burn to itunes) so you can listen and learn on the go.
The historic implications of the Requiem evoke a thought I have always had — music is not simply performed by the artist, it is performed for the audience. A different audience perhaps every time.It is not performed solely for the current audience, it is performed for the historic audience. And it evokes memories for the audience.I went to war with The Who and when I hear the songs of that time, I am there again.I remember hearing “I Can See For Miles” and remember exactly when and where and how I felt at that instant in time — invulnerable.And I can hear Tommy blaring and remember a different feeling — scared shitless.I cannot hear The Who without those memories jumping out of the bushes. And I can usually pin them 3 out of 4 times.
Unless you’re clearly faltering, you’ve got to make your decisions based on passion and interest. Like you said, LCD’s albums have each gotten better, and I’m sure they’d have some more good stuff in them, but James made the decision to move on. On top, yes? As high as he could ever go, we’ll never know.The Stones should probably have done it years ago – but really, what else could you see Keith & Mick doing? :)And then there’s always calling it quits, then milking the reunion tours and/or getting the band back together again…
Hey, where’s FAKE GRIMLOCK?(/me looks around for signs of giant robot dinosaurs).
CHECK AGAIN. ME, GRIMLOCK, ADDED DINO THOUGHTS TO THREAD.BUT NOT TOO MANY. BUSY WITH WEEKEND PROJECT, LOTS OF CODE TO WRITE.
GRIMLOCK! Good to see you at last. For a minute there, I didn’t see any “dino sign” (no crushed cars or giant robot dinosaur footprints).
But how do you know LCD Soundsystem went out on top?Imagine if The Beatles went out on top after the album Revolver. Which certainly is one of the great albums of all time but if that would have happen we wouldn’t have Sgt Pepper , the White Album and an incredible string of singles.I think LCD Soundsystem is hanging it up too early and still have some great music in them
as an artist though, they’ve now set the expectation that they don’t have to release more music. so they feel no more obligation. if they ever do feel the passion to record again, the probability that it’s quality is probably much higher.
sorry it doesn’t work like that .. a band has a certain momentum .They get into a groove and create better and better music . Once that momentum is broken it is impossible to get it back.Sorry to say but LCD Soundsystem will never get back together and create great music. They may do the reunion tour and get the cash but as a creative endeavor they have signed their own death warrant.
I definitely don’t agree with your theoretical argument. I’d argue that bands are more much likely to feel artistic/economic pressure to record a new album than they are to “get into a groove” where making increasingly good music is a probability.But this is an empirical question to which we are unlikely to get good enough data to really answer the question, nor is it entirely clear that any empirical answer would hold consistently across time and cultures.
i think this would be a great time to exit, sell into the bubble and make a big shift, personal and/or professional. maybe run for mayor of fredland!
that’s what came to mind during the show last nightbut i woke up thinking about stuff and decided i can’t do that right nowthus the blog post
you can come work for me! :Pp.s. you’ll get to do yoga every day! maybe even mandatorily! lol
Only the paranoid survive
I’m glad someone else agrees the Stones haven’t written a great song in 30 years.
it could be longer than that. i believe much of what was on tattoo you was written much earlier. it could be closer to 35 years
I am incredibly jealous that you got to go to that show!!! It sold out in about 20ns. How on earth did you get tickets?
stubhubthe scalpers made out like bandits on that showbut it was worth it
First, Rolling Stones still rock. Creating new music would be nice, but they still can crank it out. And Keith Richard’s new book is a nice derivative work from their past.”And the venture capital business is particulary tricky. All the returns in the business accrue to the top ten or, at best, twenty percent of investors.” Way too much of a herd mentality and the pitch is way over-rated. No different than the CEO’s who sucker wall street and investors over and over again.
The real question is — going where?At 44, I had hit a very good lick, been to the pay window and had sold a business which did not provide the opportunity for me to continue with it. In fact, they paid me more money to get the hell out of the sandbox. No hard feelings.By this time, I had already had 3 careers and was looking for the next one.For the next three years, I learned how to break par, did a lot of skiing, lots of fishing, went to the beach a whole lot, read like a fool, learned to fly an airplane, drove the car pool (easily the best car pool in N America), coached my kids football/basketball/baseball teams, went to the Super Bowl/Final Four, traded stocks (you could not find a way not to make 30% per annum unleveraged in those days) and most importantly, underwent therapy for a couple of years on a weekly basis.Spooky kind of “totally weird” non-Episcopalian therapy. No snakes but a bit of aromatherapy.I was looking for my “purpose” in life with some certain self-assurance it would be not more than a notch below Mother Theresa’s raison d’etre. I took a boat load of intelligence tests, personality tests and every objective standardized test that could provide insightful data. And they did.I explored every nook and cranny of my noggin to find out what should I be doing and what would make me happy.Two years later — “making order out of chaos, bossing people around and solving thorny problems” — hardly the stuff that would change the course of mankind and seemingly a huge disappointment.Everyone has 4-8 careers in them but they all have at their core some common thread. Don’t focus on the career as much as on the common thread.Life is an adventure — when you come to a fork in the road, take it!
Just don’t forget how many paths you do affect with what you do via opininion and management.I hope you guys don’t get suckered to far with the ‘gambling saves the economy’ thing in TX. You know in MO they played the ‘gambling saves education’ which really meant the gambling dollar went into the education pipeline as far as was originally budgeted, the spare to general fund.Hold ’em accountable.
There will be no successful gambling bills in TX this session. I am actively lobbying against them at all times.
Hopefully there are those understanding it is not a position necessarily dealing with what you do, but to offer false hope of revenue miracles is not prudent.Good luck.
Tom Watson tied for first after 4 rounds of the British Open at age 58. Nolan Ryan threw his sixth no-hitter at age 44. Nicklaus won the Masters at 46.Those with rare talent may see their performance decline over time, but you never know when they will dig deep and achieve something as if they were at the peak of their careers.
90 percent of venture capitalists should quit, they aren’t taking risks, don’t do any real work any more, and really are anti-venture (anti-risk). I don’t think that’s you Fred. But I do think 90 percent should stop pretending they’re venture capitalists and at least call themselves “fee collectors” for the 2% to 4% fee they charge for pretending to be investors
fred doesn’t do 1st time entrepreneurs as a rule, right? that doesn’t seem anti-risk to me
about half of our portfolio are companies where we funded a first timeentrepreneur
NEVER STOP DOING WHAT WANT TO DO.WHEN YOU NOT DOING IT BECAUSE YOU WANT TO, THEN YOU STOP.
You’re way too rare of a breed Fred to be going out just yet. Not until you’ve mentored 2-3 investors to fill in the void you would leave behind, who would hopefully each in turn would do the same one day to another 2-3. Now that would be lasting impact and a legacy to impart on the VC industry that sorely needs change. I hope more investors learn from you and take on your ethics and insights of investing.
Your recent investment in entertainment (via soundloud) makes me think you realize the value of the internet to keep people un-bored … so you are still winning!!!!
Everyone ages and this can have a direct effect on a person’s performance, but it affects people with physical talents more than it does people with mental ability.As they say wisdom comes with age, if dementia doesn’t come first lol. Most likely you become more of a sage with time and are abe to avoid the mistakes you may have made earlier in your career. So you probably have nothing to worry about the way I see it, if your talent is in-grained and real you don’t have anything to worry about. If your good returnes have been lucky stikes then you have something to worry about.Buffet is an amazing investor because of his aptitude, years of training and working with other great investors. Murdoch is great with Media because he was born into it and learned a lot over the years, I’m sure his kids could end up just as great as him. The way Murdoch is training his kids reminds me of how Junius Morgan trained J.P Morgan to be a banker. When you’re really good at something age won’t affect you unless you honestly get an age related disability along the way. Dunno how the stones fit into all this, maybe they forgot what made them good. As for Shaq and Favre, they’re just getting old and the rules are different for athletes…..Jordan made the same mistake. Age just catches up and affects their game, this isn’t necessarily true for people who make their money using mental ability…..so I don’t think you have anything to worry about. The insight you give on this blog shows definite insight and understanding of your profession, I don’t think you have anything to worry about.
Buffett’s reputation would be a lot less tarnished today had he retired five or six years ago — before the crap hit the fan with Moody’s & the credit bust, before the bailouts of several BRK companies, before he bought preferred stock in Goldman Sachs, before the current front-running kerfuffle.Not only that, but had he retired several years ago, Buffett could have been a powerful advocate for reform, criticizing examples of crony capitalism and corruption. Instead, he’s been limited by the need to talk his book, and his book now includes stakes in some of the major offenders. The billions Buffett is giving to the Gates Foundation pale in comparison to the good a retired Buffett could have done as an advocate for reform.
To say nothing of the David Sokol controversy in which a senior (heir apparent to WB himself no less) member of management bought shares in a company which was ultimately acquired by BH.
Right. That’s what I was alluding to with “the current front-running kerfuffle”.
Could it be your intuition speaking, as a VC who has been through it once before? Maybe the concerns about legacy and reputation are rooted in an instinct about the market. Spidey senses…
well i’m very worried about that and have been for almost a year nowbeen blogging about it regularly
this is one of the most interesting sub-plots i’ve seen on AVC. awesome:)
While it may or may not be an aspect of your legacy that you consider significant, let’s not overlook the fact that I could probably count on one hand the number of VCs who could frame their musings on their own career as a coherent extended metaphor using LCD Soundsystem and the Rolling Stones. 🙂
andy weissman could do iti’m pretty sure about that
Perhaps the lack of Religion is playing a roll in your dilemma?After reading your post on swimming in the cross currents of religion, it seems that you have chosen Judaism for your children, however you still have not identified yourself as Jewish.Being Jewish means understanding that Hashem is the Greatest Entity, a King of all Kings, Ruler of all Rulers. Each Jew has a mission to complete in life, a mission of building value and meaning around Hashem.Even if you owned facebook, google, apple, twitter, zynga, berkshire hathaway, at&t…etcAll those companies are very successful and yield lots of money, but there is no “value” in any of them.Value is attained by building up for God, not accumulating a large stack of money for ourselves.Example: I am Jewish. I built Parsha To Go, a communal framework for learning Torah. User-generated content builds Parsha To Go into a large database of Jewish Knowledge and expression.I made Parsha To Go free and now thousands of Jewish readers are sharing their own own thoughts with fellow Jews across the globe.The Parsha To Go iphone app has 6k users worldwide, every day I feel amazing as if it has 6 billion users.Why? Because I know I am working for the Ultimate Boss, the Greatest of the Great, Hashem our God.Perhaps it’s time to consider your Mission as a Jew?Fred, you have the choice to become a huge asset to the Jewish team.Let’s discuss your mission as a Jew. Email me at [email protected]-Conrad Schulman
i’m not going to subscribe to any dogma created by man
ME, GRIMLOCK, THINK PERSON THAT BELIEVE IN SELF NOT REALLY NEED ANYTHING ELSE.
Hey Fred, I do not subscribe to any dogma created by man:The source of Judaism and the Torah are derived from Hashem or God. I know this because the content of the Torah is so profoundly deep and its words are perfectly chosen. Only a divine entity is capable of creating the Torah.A human is not capable of creating the stories, lessons, and values that are present in the Torah.It’s simple. No human is capable.Fred, if you read and understood the Torah, I guarantee you will change your opinion.Any being who believes that Judaism is “a dogma created by man” is clearly not enlightened.As I was saying in my first post, Parsha To Go enlightens people by providing the Torah content in a understandable way that is easy to access via smart phones.Fred, your a tech genius and we all greatly respect you. However, your true enlightenment will be with Judaism. Please give it a shot. At least make an attempt to read one portion. You can use the iPad in your office.I am not a crazy Jewish fanatic, I am a young Jewish entrepreneur in NYC.I presented Life Allowance to your firm in July/August 2010. I never thought I’d be pitching Judaism and Parsha To Go to you, but after reading your post about how your swimming in the cross currents of religion and how you have chosen to raise your children Jewish, I decided to give it a try.I hope to help each other.Conrad Chanani Schulman
the torah was written by men (and hopefully women although the jewishreligion hasn’t been very welcoming to women in my book)
What are your sources for believing the Torah was written by Man/Woman? Primary sources? Secondary sources? Empirical evidence?I am part of a very Holy Jewish family from Tzfat, Israel. My family members are Scholars in the Tanakh.There is a Jewish Bible competition called the International Bible Contest or Chidon HaTanach, for High school students to compete world-wide.My Brother and Sister both broke records for ranking the highest in their age brackets and for going the furthest amongst their peers.My Mother is a Tanakh Expert/Teacher, who has taught not only our family, but thousands of others to become knowledgeable in the Tanakh.Let me ask you this Fred: Are the arguments that you are presenting, do they hold any ground? I mean absolutely no disrespect at all, but wouldn’t you think that I have more knowledge and experience in the field of Tanakh? Considering the information that I just shared with you?(I wouldn’t attempt to argue with you about how to connect Foursquare and Getglues Apis or which mobile platform to choose for my new application or where to go for financing…etc)I simply want to have an honest conversation where my opinion is respected.
I never would have picked you for an LCD Soundsystem fan, Fred. What was the last song?
New York Is Bringing Me Down
I caught the live stream on Pitchfork just in time to catch North American Scum, and it was AWESOME! Loved the way the horns and screams would just erupt! I hope they make that broadcast available for fans to view later. FWIW, while this may be the end of LCD Soundsystem, I suspect we haven’t heard the last of James Murphy.
Fred – Having not met you in person and only following your blog and community for about a year, I imagine your portfolio companies and your investors and partners sleep well at night knowing you are who you are and take great comfort in having you as a meaningful part of their intimate and/ or broader team. Readers of this blog are keen on learning from, contributing to, and interacting with your thoughts on a regular basis. Portfolio track record aside, you’re producing remarkable returns that you’re probably not even fully aware of.That’s special, and so I can only imagine that when the time comes for you decide to hang up your cleats it will be only to rest your feet…but only temporarily (and maybe formally). I can’t imagine you not angel investing, coaching, mentoring, etc. because entrepreneurs the world-over will always be solving challenging problems and creating exciting opportunities and having a voice of reason to help navigate the world, with character and who genuinely cares, is more important now than ever. To rip off LCD, you’re: standing beside people doing great things… together.
love the end of this comment!!!!
Missed this yesterday but still wanted to chime in…As it relates to sports, Favre was mentioned as an example of how not to do it.Here are a few examples of how to do it:Pete Sampras – last match, winning US Open championship.John Elway – last game, winning SuperbowlBarry Sanders, Jim Brown and Sandy Koufax all retired in their prime.To me as a big sports fan, there is nothing cooler than going out on top…
i had a paragraph in my post about sanders and elway, but i took it out. itwasn’t working for me. sampras is another great example.
@Fred —( full post here: http://sworddance.com/blog/… )1) “Hanging up your cleats” as in “retire” is wrong way to talk about a *career change*.2) *Career change* is driven by internal issues barring medical reasons ( i.e sports injuries )3) Instead of being “pushed out” look for reasons to be “pulled out”4) My rule is every new job must have 50% new things to learn.5) The best career is one where you are *bad* at it but *love* to do it. (see for why: http://sworddance.com/blog/… ) 6) Variety is key. Voluntary career change is good because it is different and its “leaping” rather than “pushed”.7) Don’t use outside metrics internally. Internal motivation is what counts the most, not anyone else’s opinion.8) Stephan Covey’s statement applies “If you are green you are growing if you are ripe you are rotten”.My suggestion: Find something completely different to do in exactly 5 years. Start looking Now.An example here:I have found no VCs interested in my company. But every prospect that I talk to is interested. (btw haven’t pitched you, and not pitching now). The prospects have experienced the problem personally and the VCs haven’t. The prospects can overcome my pitch’s weaknesses. I think those VCs who have lost their edge need to do something completely different to get a completely new perspective on something outside their current fields.Some suggestions for you: 1) Start a Subway franchise and work it funding it with no more than franchise fee plus minimum capital. Go through the bank loan process and artifically diminish your assets for loan purposes to experience the hassles. See what the problems are there for small business owner. Run this business personally for a year taking no additional capital. Just really get into this as if it was the way you were going to make it. Sweat payroll. Maybe to make it really personal lock up all your resources in investments that you cannot touch for 4 years. So you better make it!2) How can you help change people’s behavior and thoughts about the social contract of owing taxes? http://www.avc.com/a_vc/200…Maybe you could spend time and focused money people understand the tax structure. It would take relatively little money to help get local tax measures passed so that our government could function? Don’t focus on the state issues go ultra local so you can understand the issues.For example, here in SF the taxes are used to build stuff but no taxes are supplied to run things. The result is Caltrain ( SF Bay Area commuter train ) is in danger of shutdown. A primary cause is that poorly designed BART extensions are draining operating capital from the agencies that also fund Caltrain. Maybe in your area things are too expensive to influence, but what about in other areas?3) Education ( http://www.avc.com/a_vc/200… ) Sometimes technology is the anti-solution. Right now, the US despises teachers and educators. The unions are held up as this evil menace. But every teacher I know is there because she (still mostly women) cares. They work long hours just to handle the current class. This leaves little time for self improvement.Create and personally run a company that: *) Creates that frees up the teacher hours. *) Maybe better grading systems? *) Find time wasters in the classroom that keep teachers from being able to execute. ( stay away from attacks on “bureaucrats” How about what Intuit did for checkbooks? Intuit didn’t blame the evil checkbook, they just made the task of managing the checkbook easier. *) Create systems so teachers can share best practices without being judged. *) Preferably services that a teacher could use without having to persuade the school or district to buy-in. *) Teachers need CPE hours maybe leverage that point?To summarize: Get pulled out of the VC career rather than pushed out.
some great suggestions in there. i like education, but only if i can hack it
I am going to call bs on you: “can hack it”What does that mean “can hack it”?I can enjoy downhill skiing even though I will never be in the Olympics. Am I “hacking” downhill skiing even though I suck at anything resembling a ski race? I sure as hell enjoy it and I can teach my daughters the basics.Do you need the certainty of success to enough the journey of discovery?Why not do something you enjoy leave the opinions about if “Fred is hacking it” to people who you don’t care about.Someone is always better than you at anything.A friend of mine worked as an ER doctor, got an MBA at the same time, and was in the 1984 Olympics.Compared to him, I am not “hacking” anything. Hell compared to a lot of people I suck. But I am enjoying doing that which I suck at … so I am getting better.
I mean hack as in hack into a system and mess with it
If I may, respectfully, not buy the whole premise of going out on top. An able exponent of anything having to stop doing their thing is a lose-lose proposition. Granted, extreme physical performance has age limits – e.g. elite sports, virtuoso instrumental work, dance performance – but precious few fields actually fall into that category.For the rest, quitting early usually points either to loss of interest – fair enough – or to process management and intestinal fortitude issues – the same things that kill start-ups ;). One-man bands (LCD Soundsystem being an alias for James Murphy, really) could be compared to single-founder start-ups, with all that entails ;).And if we’re talking aging musicians, I’m not a fan of the Stones, but I have paid to see Aerosmith twice in the last 5 years. They brought the house crashing down both times. The audience was walking on it ears after Steven hit the high C’s in “Dream On”. Seeing men in their 60’s play the blues like that redefines the meaning of “aging”. Nevermind Leonard Cohen, who was absolutely mesmerizing the other winter. At age 75 :).From the amount of energy you put into your vocation, doesn’t seem like you’re at risk of losing interest any time soon. May I submit you probably have no need to worry about going out on top, either.
Jerry Seinfeld went out on top.
As someone who did not get to see the final LCD show (in person anyway), this post hit home in an unexpected way. I think Murphy’s doing what he feels is right, even if many of us fans feel pretty strongly that he has at least one more great record in him. While some might see “going on on top” as a cop-out, there is the somewhat unusual case of someone trying to apply their passion and creativity in other manners, and looking to explore different interests, however disappointing that might be to those that follow them. That translates much better in “creative” disciplines like music and art, but is a tougher sell in investment and business circles. We live in a culture that fiercely believes (and shoves the ideal down our throats) of “never giving up.” But what do we do when an impulse simply steers us elsewhere? Especially when we haven’t quite succeeded on the level of LCD Soundsystem or USV? That’s a much tougher question, and probably one without a satisfactory answer. Thanks for the post!
I don’t think James Murphy would see this as “hanging up his cleats.” I heard he’s planning on focusing on other (non-musical) projects.So a better comparison would be if Fred Wilson stopped focusing on VC… to be a CEO 🙂
You have been a major factor in guiding VC to where it is today. I am sure I am not the only one who is going to miss your presence in the news (once this news dies down of course..) Good luck in your future endeavors!
Did you read the post?
“i tried. didn’t work out so well”that’s great advice charlie
Julian Robertson – one of the all time great hedge fund investors left Kidder Peabody a wealthy wan in his mid 40’s to hang it up – to write a book – and to do this he moved his whole family to New Zealand.Lasted about 6 months.He came back and founded Tiger Management and the rest is history.Truth is – investing was a passion – he just didn’t have the right vehicle – so it took the creation of that vehicle to satisfy the passion.Chances are – you have that correct vehicle, the right group of partners, the right historical framework to invest today to make everything work.
Yes, Bharath. You’re quite right and thank you for extracting that from my remarks.It is easy to abstract one of the greats like Martin Luther King, or John F. Kennedy, or John Lennon and think, well, had their lives not been unexpectedly cut off while they were in their prime, would they ever have been so great? We conjure up images of “fat” Elvis. In my view, that’s idealism. Worse, it is fear-based idealism.Who is to say that any or all three of those figures would not have gone on to do something even greater than before? What if we never saw their seminal achievement that would have made everything else they did pail in significance?I think of Bill Gates. Here is a man who, love him or hate him, changed computing for literally decades and for a span was the richest man in all the world who inspired many others to discover a field that at the time was obscure at best. He is still fabulously wealthy and extremely famous. If his life was cut short, he would be going out technically “on top.” But now look at what he’s been doing since stepping down from Microsoft and focusing his life on philanthropy and humanitarian work. I believe his crowning achievement is yet to come. This man may just be the one who finally cures cancer. Do you realize that? And when the history books record that, how important will Microsoft be in the telling of that story? It will be mere back-story, not the apex.To me, with due respect to LCD Soundsystem and the like, “Going Out On Top” is really just a manifestation of fear that this is as good as it gets. If you apply the surfer analogy we got into talking about when referring to the CEO struggle to life in general, you come to recognize that life has its lulls. Those lulls can feel like permanent decline if you let them. They have the equal possibility to fuel a massive rebound, if we are so driven.Seneca said, “Many things have fallen only to rise higher.” To my way of thinking, that means you get back out on that surf board or back on that horse, whatever the metaphor, as long as you’re still curious and you still want more.I know people say you’re only as good as your last deal but really I think that’s just arrogant bullshit. Pardon my french. If that were really true, we should all just promptly kill ourselves right now. That’s just not how the universe or anyone whose lives you’ve changed for the better keeps score. Your greatest achievement in the world is the one you don’t ever even know about. That person you never even met who saw something you did, or read something you wrote, or heard something you said — or didn’t say — and was inspired to do something great themselves.Back to Fred’s query… Fred, it is very natural for you to question these things and who doesn’t want to go out on a high note? But it is contrived to try and engineer it yourself. Most everyone here has already given you the best advice which is to do it as long as it feels right. Your gut knows when it doesn’t feel great anymore. But even then, consider that your most important accomplishment might still be ahead.
i think you are right that a lot of this is tied to the fear that i can’t keep going at the pace i’ve been going for the past eight years
Fred – I think all this proves is that you’re human, buddy. Its perfectly natural for you to have those thoughts especially if you’ve had record-book success.Here’s the good news for your particular case: our field is accelerating not slowing down. So if you WANT it to go the same pace, it will. And if you don’t want it to, you’re already at a position in life where you can pick and choose who you want to work with. That’s a true blessing. I’m sure you know that already but remind yourself of it every so often. It will put a spring in your step. Nothing more powerful in life than embracing your right to happiness and at the same time being self-aware enough to be grateful for it.
the only way to be truly great at anything is to wake up scared of failure and paranoid of competition. yet use it to be aggressive.I believe that. I’m not always great at living it. I love your reminders
I kept thinking about what you said about “How do I know when to quit?”. I think in the VC service business, you need to call it quits when:1) You start to be consistently late in predicting trends. When you are late to the game for twitter, foursquare, disqus etc.2) The top entrepreneurs pass on you to take funding from others consistently even when you want to fund them. Lets say you wanted to get in on twitter, foursquare, disqus and they all said no to taking money from you. :)Until then Fred you dont have to be scared of providing great returns to your LPs. 🙂
Of course you can. And, in fact, you have a few gears left in the tranny that are untouched.You should consider a crackerjack young MBA assistant. Not a secretary but more of an aide de camp who has fledgling skills which mirror your own.This would allow you to focus more of your time on the higher priority and higher return elements of your personal portfolio.You draw energy from what you do.
we’ve got a couple talented younger people at USVbut younger people are not in our talent modelwe tell them they can hang out at USV for a couple years and then figure outwhat’s next