I posted this on the USV blog yesterday but thought I should share it with the AVC community as well.


We are big fans of communities at Union Square Ventures. The partners in our firm have been investing in Internet communities for almost 15 years and we are constantly reminded of the power of the community. Whenever we are presented with the opportunity to invest in an emerging new Internet community, we take it very seriously.

We were presented with exactly that opportunity a few months ago by Chris Poole, also known on the Internet as "moot." When Chris was 15 years old he launched one of the most powerful Internet communities, 4chan, from his bedroom. For eight years, Chris has been operating, moderating, building, observing, and learning from 4chan. Last year, Chris recruited a small group of engineers and designers and started building a new Internet community called Canvas.

Canvas is a real-time canvas on the Internet. It is a community where everyone can come to create imagery together. It is inspired by the best of 4chan but is aimed at much more. At the heart of Canvas is the concept of remixing. Every image on Canvas has a remix button which allows users to quickly modify the image and repost it. The result are threads that are anchored by the initial image. Here are a few of my favorite examples:

Ze Frank Scribbler

Charlie Sheen – I Probably Took More

All The Things?

Redrawn Icons

4chan is famously anonymous. It is raucous, unruly, and tremendously creative. The architecture of Canvas is subtly different, and although anonymous posting is allowed, you must first register a login to participate.

There aren't any filters on Canvas. You see what is happening there in real-time. Sometimes the result is inspiring. Sometimes the result is provocative. I liken it to real world creative communities like the Lower East Side of NYC when I arrived here in the early 80s. The most interesting creativity comes from places that aren't always manicured and sterile.

Canvas is very much a work in progress. The service is still in invite-only beta and requires you connect with Facebook to register. Chris and the Canvas team are committed to building the most exciting and interesting community for real-time creativity on the Internet, and we are thrilled to be along for the ride. You can get on the ride as well because Canvas is hiring. Their jobs page is here.

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. Nick Tomaino

    It seems as though this investment fits right in with your “cultural revolution” thesis. Congrats!

    1. fredwilson

      i hope so

  2. Andrew

    Building community is everything. Worry about the rest later. 

  3. awaldstein

    Communal graffiti captures this for me.That was my comment on the USV post yesterday and still feels right.Makes me think of early Keith Haring icons drawn with chalk in the subways, raw images connecting the artist to the public in the form of city tattoos. Good luck with this. 

    1. fredwilson

      thanks arnoldwe love the idea (communal graffiti) and the entrepreneurthat’s usually a good recipe for an early stage investment

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        The first ‘back of a napkin’ serendipitous epiphany via this or a similar such medium will indeed herald a whole new era of doodling ideas and their manifestation.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Haring’s work still stands out (e.g. “Crack is Whack”), but back when graffiti was ubiquitous in New York, it was just an ugly mess for the most part. Easy to forget, but I was reminded of that a few weeks ago when “My Dinner with Andre” was on cable — that opening scene where we hear Wallace Shawn’s voice over while he takes the subway to meet Andre.

      1. awaldstein

        Interesting comment Dave.That was then (I lived in the East Village back then) and now is now. We also littered, smoked, and lots more;)Now we get to tattoo our mind’s doodles online and share.  Back then, hey…it was early urban, now its cleaner, harder to capture the passion but really powerful if you can.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Now it’s gentrified, and the police don’t ignore quality of life crimes. But if poverty and urban decay are the seeds of creativity, then we should see some interesting things coming out of Detroit in the years to come (indeed, there’s already been a trickle of artists and entrepreneurs moving in to recolonize vacant parts of that city). 

    3. Carl Rahn Griffith

      I prefer Banksy in analogue mode ;-)…

      1. awaldstein

        New to me. Thanks.

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          He’s great. Enjoy!

  4. RichardF

    My initial reaction was why? but having just watched Chris Poole being interviewed on Techcrunch TV by Chris Dixon here… I can see it could be a really interesting investment.Chris Poole seems to have real clarity in his vision for Canvas. Not my thing but then it isn’t aimed at me.

    1. awaldstein

      There may be a hole in the market for community that creates communal art between social objects or nodes. I’m mentoring a incubator start-up (in stealth) that is building a platform for sharing between books, kinda like dynamic marginalia.Really hard to do. Super cool and points to a genre that is is unclear but potent.

      1. RichardF

        What certainly makes Canvas interesting to me is the ability to interact with media that is posted up by users in a way that you cannot in Facebook and I can see that being attractive.  If someone spams my Facebook stream with a music video of  Rebecca Black there is little interaction (other than me de-friending them).  The ability to change a picture and create something as a way of interacting with people is a step in a different direction.The use of Facebook as the method of sign up is also interesting.OT – just ordered a case from Naked Wines, will let you know

        1. awaldstein

          Lack of dynamic interaction on FB will spawn a whole ecosystem of niche communities that need something different. Bring them on…we need a bunch of them.Good luck with the Naked purchases. Remember…they have a no fault, no cost return policy 😉

      2. ShanaC

        Oh, yes there is.  People forget that a) how artists practices is by lots of copying (of objects, of other people’s art) .  Art is like code – much more social than it looks.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      I didn’t get it either.

      1. Mark Essel

        You edit pictures, and watch people edit pictures.You talk with other people who edit pictures.You edit pictures, and watch people edit pictures.You talk with other people who edit pictures.You edit pictures, and watch people edit pictures.You talk with other people who edit pictures.It’s magic!

        1. Dave Pinsen

          One application I can think of for this would be to provide pictures/photo illustrations of businesses for Foursquare check-ins. If I’m feeling mildly masochistic, I click on someone’s Foursquare check-in on Twitter, and see a boring map of the business’s address. Why not, along with that, caricatures of the business’s principals? Or, if it’s a restaurant, a picture of one of its signature dishes?Maybe you can build an app to facilitate that.

        2. leigh

          I’ve heard I could get hurt even mentioning this (the first rule of file pile is apparently not to talk about file pile) but … file pile was very similar – pple would upload a photo and then the community would start f&cking around with it (picture of pope with little girl became picture of pope with Kentucky fried chicken – you get the idea).  What intrigued me about it was two things:1.  It was a visual conversation that ‘remixing’ artists were having with each other 2.  Each remix artists had their own visual signature – there was something especially cool about that.  

          1. Mark Essel

            sounds like it could be fun.

    3. fredwilson

      I thought it wasn’t for me at first but once I started stikering I washooked

      1. leigh

        on the remix front – here’s one for you – too great not to share –…

        1. fredwilson

          that’s great

    4. Donna Brewington White

      My initial thought was that it wasn’t my cup of tea either (used the British cliche just for you!) — although I laughed very, very hard when I visited and for that reason, will probably visit again.  I appreciate what Canvas is trying to do (they are combining two of my passions: creativity and community) and will probably appreciate it even more after watching the interview you provided the link for.  I especially like smart business.Who knows, if @andyswan:disqus keeps posting on Canvas, I might become a regular. ;-)Did you see that?  I’m dying.

      1. RichardF

         lol…thanks much appreciated.  Andy’s post was very funny.I agree with Grimlock that this could just fizzle out, on the other hand because Chris Poole has so much experience with community building I think he probably has some bigger plans and will execute on them.I also don’t think the whole reason for using Facebook to register for the service is just to prevent anonymous sign up.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          ahhh…Fred said think Zynga…It’s fun to watch it all unfold…

  5. Fernando Gutierrez

    With that impressive group of investors they better aim high!

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Surprising group of investors — but in a good way.  Makes me think there is more to this than meets the eye, or that some of these groups are becoming more creative.  Or maybe the so-called bubble is creating a little play room.No pun intended given that Canvas is an online playroom of sorts

  6. Dave W Baldwin

    Very good!  You know this fits what I usually rant about re creativity.The right promotion will build a big community.

    1. fredwilson

      I was very inspired by what Steven Johnson wrote about creativity in WhereGood Ideas Come From

      1. Dave W Baldwin

        Would be fun to do a vid with the beginning shot of cave drawings (I think some are finally coming around to realizing it was art, not code) over to Canvas pointing to the younger crowd.You do know this could be of GREAT benefit in the schools…

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Maybe something like this?

          1. Dave W Baldwin

            Ha… I forgot about this one……Of course, it would be better with this as soundtrack, unfortunately they took down the 2001…I get called into special circumstances at the school… did 3 day for music… kids think this/that re Imagine, which you can do Let It and Hey J (simple piano)… but started doing Us/Them from Floyd and laughed at ’em.BTW, I am playing with slide show (used it earlier to present program on the future at the Career/Tech per request) ripping the pic of the cavemen fighting to represent moving into ’10 with Apple winning battle against RIM, HTC…..

          2. Dave Pinsen

            Instead of the monolith, you could have a statue of Fred and his USV partners, spurring the next stage in the evolution of the consumer web.

          3. Dave W Baldwin

            Good one!

          4. Dave W Baldwin

            Staying with expanded purpose, in Art, students learn from imitating the teacher and/or what they see on display.  The same goes with cave drawings… learned behavior.Back when, I was asked to give a quickee regarding Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)… here is a recent interview featuring the guy (Dr. Ben Goertzel) I’m working with:

  7. William Mougayar

    I’ve not seen this type & depth of UGC before. Very interesting & we’ll be watching their evolution. Best wishes.

  8. leigh

    Curious – given comments Twitter and risks associated with hitching one’s wagon to specific platforms – how do you generally feel about Facebook connect? (beyond the ability to spread/market the product through share functionality….).  Facebook’s policies while randomly enforced, can be very restrictive.  

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t like it but canvas is not using FB Connect for identity and login.You have to register with canvas. They use FB to connect your Canvasidentity to your real identity. It is not used in the service at all. Itsjust a subtle reminder to the community that although you can be publiclyanonymous, the company knows who you are

      1. Todd Allen

        I wondered why it worked this way.  I like the idea of Facebook as a way to prove it is you, but not to post junk all over my profile.  (although having a Facebook account only keeps the honest people verified)

      2. Aaron Klein

        So what you’re saying is…Mark Essel doesn’t exist.Kidding!!!

      3. Prokofy

        Yeah, the b/tards love to expose other people but keep themselves hidden and unaccountable.

  9. Josh Hanson

    Makes sense to me, and continues the tradition of reddit, 4chan, metafilter, etc.  It has it all, movement, curation, narrative, being “in”, gifts and taps into people’s desire to “experience through facsimile”.  Google Wave done right?

    1. fredwilson

      That’s so funny. Wave was an inspiration for Chris

    2. Prokofy

      Google Wave also involved vandalism as the essence of its appeal. You could rewrite and erase other people’s emails to you in group chat. They added a “history” button but it was hard to find and retrieve pre-vandalized text.

  10. andyswan

    The initial meeting went something like this: the spirit of the company)

    1. Charlie Crystle


    2. Donna Brewington White

      That’s funny, Andy. Really funny.

    3. fredwilson

      That is fantastic. Just sent it to chris. Love it!!!

      1. andyswan

        Now available for remix:

        1. fredwilson

          Uh oh

        2. Morgan Warstler


    4. Mark Essel


  11. ShanaC

    A) You are really right that creativity is messyB) do you ever wonder/worry that we will have a gentrification of the web, (like what happened on the LES/Alphabet City?)

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Humans are messy.

      1. ShanaC

        100% – I keep thinking the messiness is what makes us creative – because we have to respond to that messiness

        1. Dave Pinsen

          I’m going to guess that 99.99% of messy people aren’t that creative. Messiness is ubiquitous; creativity, not as much. 

          1. Donna Brewington White

            People who want to keep as many options open for as long as possible are messy.  

          2. ShanaC

            Eh, I’m not so sure.

          3. Dave Pinsen

            Go watch the show “Hoarders” and tell me how creative those people are.________________________________

          4. ShanaC

            hoarders != messy

      2. Mark Essel

        Babies are, we should be born with potty training.

      3. awaldstein

        Life is messy.

    2. fredwilson

      Yes and no. Services will gentrify like is happening to Facebook right now.But the web, like NYC, will always have hot new neighborhoods

      1. ShanaC

        Facebook’s traffic is dropping in the US.  And while lots of people want to id me by my facebook, and my friends are there, overall, it has the feeling of being in a lame suburb.  It feels if anything post-gentrified, especially from its upper class college roots.I’m almost wondering where the next great “neighborhood” on the web is?

        1. Mark Essel

          Disqus yo!

        2. fredwilson

          Palo Alto California is like Greenwich Connecticut, they are very muchmanicured and sterile. Companies reflect the places they come from

          1. Donna Brewington White

            But living in Greenwich and working in NYC could be the best of both worlds.  

          2. Robert Thuston

            Who’s to say the next big thing wont be coming from a smaller town/city outside Palo Alto or NYC?

          3. Donna Brewington White

            I won’t say that! I certainly don’t think creativity is limited to those meccas. But, you do eventually need a resource pool to draw from — especially in terms of talent and this is more geographically determined.So, do you have a startup in stealth mode in Birmingham? 😉

    3. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Nice analogy, Shana.Facebook is Radio City.Twitter is CBGB’s.Tumblr – Bowery Ballroom? ;-)But there won’t be the same sad ending for Twitter, I am sure! 

  12. kirklove

    Did you see/feel any conflict with this and Tumblr?As more and more tech companies emerge I suppose this is an inevitability to have “similar” portfolio companies.

    1. fredwilson

      We talked about it. Wasn’t an issue. David and Chris are friends

  13. Donna Brewington White

    I got the “fail walrus” so will check back later.  Congratulations!  Cutting edge.  Human.  Seems like a pioneering investment.Appreciate the vision that you have for internet communities and the willingness to help break new ground.But glad you didn’t invest in chatroulette. (Or, at least USV didn’t.)

  14. Donna Brewington White

    Finally was able to log on.I actually get it.  And now @andyswan:disqus ‘s comment is even funnier.How are they gonna monetize this?

    1. fredwilson

      Think Zynga not Google

  15. FlavioGomes

    Doesn’t resonate with me yet…but neither does planking.That’s not to say it doesn’t have some promise.  Most of the work I looked at was kinda…meh…but one out of every 10000 amateur content creators often produce something extraordinary…I suppose the remixing might improve the quality curve.I can see media and marketing firms adopting the framework for use in popular messaging.Good luck

  16. ShanaC

    being nice: I have five invites, who wants?

    1. RichardF

      yes please shana @rsforster:twitter

      1. ShanaC

        email me shana dot carp at gmail!

    2. Mark Essel

      sure, hit me up

      1. ShanaC

        no facebook, alas

    3. Mark Essel

      Actually I don’t have a facebook account, cancel that.

      1. fredwilson

        That’s an issue mark. I’m sorry about that

    4. Morgan Warstler


      1. ShanaC

        email me shana dot carp at gmail!

    5. Robert Thuston

      I’m in if there is any left.  @bertrood:twitter 

      1. ShanaC

        email me shana dot carp at gmail!

    6. Prokofy

      Hi, I saw your ad on Facebook! that was creative. How did it know to pitch it to me?No, I don’t want any Canvas, hell no.I get enough Canvas in SL.

      1. ShanaC

        I thought it would be nice to offer since I got off the waitlist earlier than a lot of people.As for the ads and how they work, that is my secret :).  I can’t give away exactly what I did, only because it is part of what I do for pay….  I’m running an ad run until the first week of august (i think).  I’m going to see what happens, I figure it is more efficient to advertise myself than apply to lots of jobs (if it works).  I can tell you that despite the targeting (most of the targeting is a group of people who is very unlikely to click on ads based on what info there is out there about people who click on ads), I actually have a fairly high engagement rate, on par with something like Bing (not quite google, alas).

  17. Douglas Crets

    Welcome to the new future of advertising: market messaging as it happens. Creative Blurting…. Enable. Twitter enables this, too, with sarcasting hashtags. #thefutureiscontextualbitchiness#thefutureisrunonsarcasm

  18. Nanda Yadav


  19. Eunice Apia

    I liked the idea so I sent a very informal email asking for a job. The most informal email I’ve ever written requesting a job, to the point of almost embarrassing. No, I wasn’t drunk when I sent it. I blame social media, it makes one…informal.I hope I don’t have to create a Facebook account if I get a job there or anywhere.

  20. J.R. Sedivy

    “The most interesting creativity comes from places that aren’t always manicured and sterile.”Quite the opposite – innovation is messy.



    1. Donna Brewington White

      Hey, FG –Funny, my first thought was chatroulette. (Someday I’ll tell you the story of how I stumbled in there for a couple of nanoseconds…thanks to the author of this very blog…)But, looking at the investor list — don’t you think there must be more to this than first meets the eye?I mean, honestly, would you ever have expected Farmville to go big?



        1. Donna Brewington White

          How does it work that my brain is bigger but you are smarter.  Not fair.

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


    2. Prokofy


  22. paramendra

    For Tumblr and 4Chan to end up in the same portfolio: there is hope for peace in the Middle East. 

  23. sigmaalgebra

    More stuff created and, thus, more stuff to find.  Hmm …!

  24. Prokofy

    Oh, dear God.Your pal Chris presides over the largest Internet watering hole for malicious hackers in the Metaverse.When you and Ron Conway and Ken Lerer invest in these goons, do you realize you are objectively helping to harm other companies by hacking? That you are helping to whitewash the man-boy who presides over this vindictive anarchy? Don’t you care? (And no, I’m not one of those people who invests a positive connotation to the word “hacking.”It’s not “creative” to DDoS other companies’ servers because you don’t like what they do or say and can’t get your infantile way. It’s not “creative” to bully people online.If you want to see the real face of these “creatives,” read a typical comment from the b/tards on my blog (scroll down to see “4chan is not pleased with you” — outrageous stuff.http://secondthoughts.typep…Once again my blog has been under attack for days by these creeps, replete with spam and death threats. Why? Because of my views critical of Internet technology. I’m criticizing two coders in Second Life who have filled all the public roads with unmanned scripted vehicles that use sim resources, run into people, pile up as litter, etc. I’ve been editorializing on this subject for months along with other bloggers that want Linden Lab to rein in the script kiddies. There’s this notion that any person who hogs the entire grid with their scripted devices is somehow “creative” and “bold” but they’re also just “selfish”.So for exposing this, I get bombarded with attacks by these losers.Read my long essays On Anon to benefit from the distillation of my years of seeing how this Leninist=type movement operates and the destruction it has caused.…They will come for you someday, Fred.

    1. fredwilson

      investing in canvas has nothing to do with 4chanand 4chan is not malicioussome people who use it are