Long Roadmaps

I interviewed Dennis Crowley yesterday at the NYU Entrepreneurs Festival. I tweeted out the livestream so I'm sure some people were able to catch it live. I hope they put the video up soon because Dennis was great and I think people will get a lot of value out of his thoughts on entrepreneurship, startups, and building a product and a company.

But this post is about something Dennis said about product roadmaps that really struck me. Dennis said that all the way back to Dodgeball, the predecessor company to Foursquare, he and Alex had a roadmap for the product that was years ahead of what they could actually build. When Dennis and Naveen decided to start building Foursquare, Dennis pulled out that roadmap and updated it to reflect the power of modern smartphones. And that roadmap goes way out, well beyond what Foursquare is today or what it will be in a year from now.

So when I asked Dennis about the moment when the Foursquare team watched the Facebook Places announcement, he said "I got up and told the team that any company can copy what we have built, but we just have to go on and build the things we want to build because nobody else has that roadmap."

That is the power of a visionary founder leading a team to build the things that are only in his or her mind. I recall Mark Pincus, in the early days of Zynga, tell me about a game he wants to build someday. Zynga still has not released that game. When Jack Dorsey came back to Twitter, he said he was finally going to build Twitter 1.0. Think about that. And think about what Twitter 5.0 is in Jack's mind.

The best founders have these long roadmaps.  If they can stay engaged in their companies, they can realize them over extended periods of time. There are so many reasons why this doesn't always happen. Founders leave. Companies are sold. But when it all comes together, the result is magical.


Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    Yonder the distant horizon the long and windey road goes where no one knows  

    1. fredwilson

      source please!

      1. jason wright

        That was my artistic work for this morning. All rights reserved. Licensing terms available upon request :-). Speak to my agent – oh, I don’t have one :-o.

        1. fredwilson

          It is great

        2. Wesley Verhoeve

          really great Jason!

        3. ShanaC

          superb sense of poetry there…

        4. Vineeth Kariappa


    2. Barry Nolan

      I wandered lonely as a cloudThat floats on high o’er vales and hills,When all at once I saw a crowd,A host, of golden venture capitalists;Beside the lake, beneath some term sheetsFluttering and dancing in the breeze.

    3. JLM

      Well played.  Well said.The thing about it is — the visionary — that guy knows where the road IS going to go.

  2. tyronerubin

    great recent video from Jack Dorseyhttp://www.livestream.com/g…I looked at the livestream and wonder why sometimes the video is not archivedhttp://www.livestream.com/n…I asked the question to you to ask ‘living in south africa it’s tough getting ppl into foursquare, any suggestions on growing globally?’Living in South Africa there is just not that ‘foursquare’ ‘check in’ culture at all yet.Early adopters use it but we definitely dont feel the benefits yet.We also, here in South Africa, took to twitter at least a year or two after it became mainstream in the States, as in this year was when twitter became mainstream here.Its interesting to see products like location based services, square take there time to get to places in Africa.I love seeing how long it sometimes takes for adoption to get here. I hope that these founders know that we will adopt, but in months or years afterwards.Apple is still not officially in South Africa. We have a company called Core who have the rights and do whatever they want, under the name of Apple.I think its all market related and in many respects our market here is just not big enough, for a lot of these services and products yet.I look at Uber and think thats at least 2 years away. Unfortunately maybe even more.A bit off topic I know, but do love to get my thoughts out here, and try make it somewhat relate to the post.Hope we get that video soon. thanks.

    1. fredwilson

      as you know my daughter spent a semester at UCT which recently ended. she told me all of this. she was frustrated at how behind SA is to the US. keep plugging away. the good stuff will come.

    2. fredwilson

      and thanks for the link to the jack and om talk. i just watched it. really really good. tweeted it out for all to see.https://twitter.com/#!/fred

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Had just tweeted Jack’s quote today taken from this interview “…when technology is really done right it should actually allow us to be more human, not less.”  Deeply resonated with this.  Can see a lot of Jack’s thinking in the original framework of Twitter and why it evolved around its users.  Really, really impressed with him.I wonder how those companies will fare long term that don’t understand or embrace the sentiment of his statement.

        1. fredwilson

          There were a number of gems in there. I loved when he talked about how the owners had obsessed about their coffee shop

          1. tyronerubin

            loved everything about that interview.Also at the same event always great to hear Michael Moritz speak. Pretty broadly. http://www.livestream.com/g…

    3. Donna Brewington White

      Hi Tyrone.  I have some funny stories from visiting South Africa with two friends whose acting careers had begun to wane in the U.S. but they were still popular in South Africa. Great ego boost for them!  This was a decade ago, so I’m sure they are no longer “famous” in SA either.I still can’t get that breathtaking coastline below Cape Town out of my mind.

      1. tyronerubin

        Great story Donna thanks. For another one, while growing up there was a musician in South Africa, Jesus Rodriguez whose album Cold Fact was the seminal album for so many millions of South Africans. Songs like ‘I wonder’ and ‘Sugar Man’ were massive. He was from Detroit and recorded this album in Amsterdam and for some strange reason his album landed on the shores of South Africa. He didn’t know this and carried on the next 30 years, while doing things like running for mayor and then brick laying. All the while becoming the biggest selling musician of all time in South Africa. This was all pre Internet of course and even pre Television as we got that also very late. One day a friend told me that Jesus Rodriguez was only known in South Africa and it was like telling me that Bob Dylan or The Beatles were only known in South Africa. I couldn’t believe the story and went forth to track down the truth as I wanted to turn this crazy story into a feature film. We ended up making a short, which played over and over on local tv here and not yet the feature. My friend ended up taking him touring to London and Australia where he has a massive ex South African fan base. I still marvel at the story of this musician who for thirty years was the biggest musician in South Africa, having the no 1 album of all time here for the thirty year period, all the while unbeknown to him. So pls all try listen to the album as something like this, with the internet around, could never happen again. Jesus Rodriguez who actually turned out to be Sixto Rodriguez with the album called ‘Cold Fact’.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Fascinating story, Tyrone.  Thanks so much for sharing this.  Can’t wait to ask my friends from Cape Town about this — music people so will probably know the story.Listening to “Sugar Man” now on YouTube.  Wow, wow!  Sounds so indie.  Wonder if I can play this in the “Indie while you work” room on TT.  😉   

  3. Dennis Buizert

    In my opinion a roadmap that extends longer than i.e. 5 years, is a product vision.A road map is a set of goals/milestones. Setting up the vision for the future is not. It is hard to determine what the future will bring and hanging your roadmap up to your own vision can be dangerous. Unless you have a good indication/feeling about where it’s heading. I did not the video though, so I might be speaking way a head of what is being said. If that is the case, I am sorry. 

    1. fredwilson

      When the video goes up, watch it. You will see that Dennis agrees with you about evolving the roadmap. The part where he talks about what happens if Apple opens up Siri’s APIs is particularly interesting

  4. Scott Barnett

    Very interesting concept… and I wonder if this is one of the sources of co-founder break-ups – it’s relatively easy to find somebody to converge on an initial idea, but how often will two (or three) different people have the same vision of what’s to come 2, 3 or 5 years down the road?  Another reason why there has to be one person ultimately “in charge” – because there can really only be one vision, and who ultimately owns that?

    1. Mordy Kaplinsky

      Great point @scobar:disqus its easy to sell people on what they can imagine today but the long vision is something that only someone with foresight can envision, hence their value as a founder without the resume qualifications.  The visionary better not be delusional though or the entire product can go down in flames!

    2. fredwilson

      i think it is best when one of the founders owns the product vision

      1. Irving Fain

        Agree that ultimately one / all of the founders need to maintain the product vision for the long term and I love the idea of thinking years out. I know at CrowdTwist we try to do the same even though it’s difficult at times.That said, when do you think is the right time to bring someone in that focuses on the product (Product manager you could say) all day everyday? His / her job is to translate that vision into the day to day.

      2. Scott Barnett

        and should that founder be the CEO?  If not, why not?

        1. fredwilson

          Ideally yes

        2. Dave W Baldwin

          @fredwilson:disqus is right.  If you have the pairing of Evangelist and Technical whre the Evangelist has the vision, the Evangelist needs to be in control for he/she can end up with a lot of wasted time if the Technical Officer is just looking for some $$$.Then as CEO, the Evangelist can make the needed decisions regarding who can produce what for the most bang.

  5. Jason

    Very interesting … So Foursquare is Dodgeball squared that turned down acquisition offers to see the vision through? And I’m sure that roadmap/checklist is under lock and key and there is wisdom to be shared about what and when they executed in accordance with agile/lean startup before they raised funding.

  6. Ivan Vecchiato

    Nice, but do VCs have as much as long roadmaps? I mean, can these best founders always have the support of VCs or angel investors that do not care for strict deadlines?Have a nice weekend, Fred.Ivan

    1. fredwilson

      good question. no easy answer.

  7. Rohan

    In it for the long run, we must be. ‘In war, I’ve found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensible.’

    1. JLM

      The first casualty of engagement with the enemy is……………………………….the plan.Planners must plan for multiple responses from the enemy and model each one before engagement.The ability to change plans on the fly is one of the greatest attributes of the military and why special operations are so effective — they master battle drill — when they do that, we do this — rather than sticking to the original plan.

      1. Rohan

        You would know best, JLM. :)I’m sure you’ve read lots and have lots of insights about the Van Riper Red Team Blue Team experiment. (http://darkmattermatters.co…But, that’s what came to mind.The big conclusion was that the best generals work with their gut and throw plans out the moment uncertainty hits them.. 

        1. JLM

          Gut is way undervalued in life. Women seem to refine and retain it while men seem to train it out of themselves.Gut is great when you have created a great baseline against which to measure short outcomes.When a Gen “pivots” it is often an alternate plan that has already been considered, briefed and discussed.”If we encounter stiff resistance at this point, be prepared to bypass the resistance, swing right astride this road and continue to advance.”It is also why Army officers have to be men of flawless integrity — because they have to tell the Old Man “your plan is not working” and why the General has to know his sub commanders are fighters who would not yell “calf rope” unless they were really in a pickle.This is where team work really matters.

          1. Rohan

            Hmm. Agree about team work, JLM.Interesting point about ‘gut’ there.Sorry to go all Myers Briggs on you (unlike Freud in your case ;)) but this is what Isabel Briggs Myers calls ‘intuition’ i.e. a women’s hunch and a man’s gut. And it is true that women typically hone it while men try to train  logic in and try and learn to love facts and data i.e what IBM would call ‘sensing’. The right approach there, of course, would be to hone ‘N’ or intuition if that is our primary characteristic instead of training it out as you put it.Pretty deep stuff.

          2. JLM

            You have to give yourself time and space to “listen” to your own instincts.One of the most important elements of successful leadership is to have good instincts and to have followers who believe that your intuition is better than theirs.And therefore they are willing and desirous of following you.In life, you never really receive power, you TAKE it.  Doesn’t mean you have to be bombastic and offensive but at an instant in time, you have to exude the reality that — “hey, I am in charge here and everything is going to be OK”.Do you remember when Reagan was shot and they coulld not locate the VP and Al Haig stepped forward and said — “I am in charge here”?The pundits had a field day w/ it but at that instant in time, like him or not, Al Haig took charge.  Because power hates a vacuum.

          3. Rohan

            In life, you never really receive power, you TAKE it.Interesting point, that. I have found that to be absolutely true.I think power begins to play interesting games on us though. The saying ‘Anybody can handle adversity. To test a man, give him power’ is something I’ve seen happen from time to time.I guess we are always walking a tight rope.

      2. ErikSchwartz

        The plan was invading Normandy, the vision was liberating Europe.

        1. JLM

          The D Day landing is an unbelievable opportunity to learn about planning. Bradley took an unworkable plan and improved it immeasurably.Bradley was the greatest amphibious attack planner in history. N Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy.

          1. ErikSchwartz

            Leveraging lots of lessons that were learned about landing under fire in the Solomons, the Gilberts, and the Marshalls in late 1942, 1943 and early 1944.

          2. JLM

            One would hope so but the Pacific landings were island landings — no big follow on fighting because the size of the objective was so small and the islands were so small  — and the American forces were all about Corps size.The island campaigns provided the ability for complete air superiority, battleship direct fire support and line of sight command.N Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy were Army sized landings (Army Group in many instances) with allied armies and getting lodgements on the land was just the first phase of large battles of maneuver often against well matched forces.  Big difficult battles.The big learning was the use of the little landing craft and the innovation of their design.

          3. ErikSchwartz

            Which is why the landings themselves in the Pacific were so contested. The Japanese could not play the classic game of strategically falling back on an island like Tarawa (if they were even willing to). Airborne is also pretty useless if they can’t land behind front lines. I guess my question is once the beach head is established and secure how different are post landing maneuvering from any other large army land based maneuvering?

          4. JLM

            @ErikSchwartz:disqus Further to your comments below —The most significant issue of large scale landings is the necessity to immediately seize a good port for supply purposes.Little landings can be resupplied over the beach for a while.Big landings have to seize a port to provide adequate supply.That’s why some of port battles in Normandy were so important and why the Mulberrys were so critical to the mid term plan.BTW, MacArthur in the Pacific, in particular the Philippines, made great use of airborne troops for their intended mission.The European use of paratroopers was totally disorganized and almost counterproductive.  It would have been better to have had 3-5 additional heavy elite infantry divisions than what was accomplished in Europe.This from a guy who spent time w/ the 82nd.

      3. Donna Brewington White

        To me, it’s not really planning if it is not contingency planning.Otherwise, it’s predicting.

      4. Cam MacRae

        Exactly why the commander’s intent is so important.

        1. JLM

          Amen. One of the best learnings since VN.VN era operational orders and planning protocol did not include a clear Commanders Intent.

  8. William Mougayar

    Things that VC’s buy into: That one slide – checkThe roadmap – check

    1. fredwilson

      don’t confuse all VCs with this VC 🙂

      1. William Mougayar

        🙂 I almost wrote AVC instead of VC. (Was trying to be nice to others.) 

  9. Tom Labus

    There is huge difference between a guide and roadmap once your’re in unknown territory.The marketplace and insight will alter the route dramatically.  A guide will keep you true to you original dream but a roadmap will put you in a ditch somewhere down the road.

    1. fredwilson

      not if the roadmap is in the guide’s mind instead of on paper

    2. William Mougayar

      I think the difference is when the roadmap is strategic and not just about features. 

  10. Anonymous

    Fred, curious what your thoughts are on the recent press related to Zynga pressuring some of its employees to surrender pre-IPO shares?

    1. fredwilson

      i think it is an example of what the media does to companies that are in the quiet period. when mark and zynga can tell their side of the story, i think people will realize that zynga is a meritocracy where performance matters more than anything else

      1. Rohan

        I’m not following the issue so closely but might help if someone explained the situation a bit.Felt like there was an uproar and in response there was an email from Mark that went out. It didn’t seem to clarify much..Might help clarifying given IPO etc

        1. fredwilson

          Nobody can right now. Its quiet period

          1. Rohan

            I’m unsure what that means, Fred. Sorry..Is that because it’s pre IPO? or is that because they’re taking time to sort it out before they release to press?

          2. fredwilson

            You cant talk publicly for a period before the IPOIt is called the quiet period

          3. Rohan

            Ah okay. Gotcha. :)And @disqus:disqus really needs to consider allowing for longer threads.We keep running out here.

          4. fredwilson

            Thats a feature not a bug

      2. ErikSchwartz

        If YHOO had done in 1999 what Mark is doing now they would not have cratered.

  11. William Mougayar

    That is so true. It’s the depth not just the length of the vision that makes the roadmap so unique and powerful. This is easily said, but requires a lot of insight 4-5 steps into the future. You need to be able to project what will happen when all of what should happen prior, does happen. It’s like a compounding effect. When the roadmap is a winning one, the rest is all about execution with the team you have. I would contend that it’s more difficult to have a great roadmap than it is to build and manage a team that will execute on it. You need both, but once you have that great idea that runs miles deep, nothing should stop you from building the team to make it happen.

    1. Rohan

      I sometimes wonder if it’s as logical/thought through as that (referring to insight 4-5 steps).I feel.. with a vision, you feel it first. It’s often just a flash..And then you sketch the rest out to make it work.

  12. Wesley Verhoeve

    As a founder in a field (music) that is under such duress and subject to constant and big changes in short periods of time, I find that it’s our roadmap (core mission + long term view) that help me keep it all together. In those moments where anxiety inevitably rears its ugly head I look at the road map and realize for the most part competition and radical shifts in consumer behavior or distribution don’t affect so much what is at the core of what we set out to do: positively affect as many lives as possible through music. That never changes, even if everything around it changes.If we were focused on a certain method of distribution, or a single revenue model we’d probably panic every few weeks, but for the most part we can keep it together because of our roadmap and constant iteration. Not saying it’s easy, but it sure isn’t boring either!

    1. Rohan

      Quoting the quote from below..’In war, I’ve found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensible.’Change is the rule, I guess.

  13. leigh

    always a balance between emergence and vision.My business partner whose wife is a landscape architect talks about “desire lines”…”A desire path (also known as a desire line or social trail) is a path developed by erosion caused by footfall. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination.” (wikipedia)The greatest companies know what they are building towards, but let the community show them the path to it over time.  



  14. Rohit Mishra

    I like to think in depth about what I want to build. The different parts of the problem I am trying to solve. But, there is this counter-feeling that I should only focus on my first release. Thinking about more features will deviate me. Can what I am doing be considered as building a roadmap? 

    1. fredwilson

      your first release should be a super tiny part of your overall vision designed to get you into the market.my partner Brad talks about the “narrow point of the wedge”. you can drive that into a piece of wood. but you can’t drive a brick into a piece of wood.

      1. Wesley Verhoeve

        Great metaphor. Noted down and taking it to my team on Monday.

      2. JLM

        Great point.  If a visionary really unloads and tells the entire story up front, the listeners will be looking for the lobotomy scars.You can scare folks w/ too much vision.  They think you are nuts.

        1. William Mougayar

          Well said. It’s like a strip-tease show that lasts forever, but where each revealed part enlightens.

          1. Rohan


        2. fredwilson

          Yup. So true.

        3. FAKE GRIMLOCK


      3. SnapScore

        Good point. A leader needs to keep the deck close to his chest. Keep people guessing, but make them want to come to you time and time again.

    2. Dave W Baldwin

      Hold the bigger vision to your chest and/or some close friends who know what’s up.  I can tell you from personal experience worrying about features too much will hurt, especially in holding attention of those you want.

  15. Tyler Reed

    I think this post relates well to the statement “some things need to be believed to be seen”, taken from the 12 lessons Guy Kawasaki learned from Steve Jobs.I think wonder about the following though in bad times. What if Foursquare didn’t weather the storm against Facebook Places. Would it’s investors still have faith to keep funding it to fulfill that roadmap (or most of it)?

  16. RichardF

    For all the talk of VCs wanting to back rockstar teams (and I know the reasons why)  this to me demonstrates the point that at the beginning you are really backing the entrepreneur who is the keeper of the dream, the co-founders are the supporting act.  (I am not deriding the value of that support)

    1. JLM

      Jockey, horse, course, oats.You always pick the jockey first.

      1. Rohan

        Nice analogy, that is.Very wise , our Jedi here is. 🙂 

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Why not the horse?

        1. Blsavini

          In this anology, because you need the 100 pound jockey to be able to gain the respect needed to control the 1000 pound horse, in a field of other 1000 pound horses running at close to 45 miles and hour, within very tight quarters.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Thanks for this.  My argument would have been that not all 1000 pound horses have equal ability and so it’s the “best” horse that counts (along with a competent jockey), but combining your response with JLM’s response, it comes together.  Really something to think about.  I love analogies and thinking through the implications — but time consuming.

        2. JLM

          Great jockey plus ok horse equals WIN!Model all the combinations and permutations and more winners with great jockey.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            Really interesting…thought provoking. Thanks, JLM.

  17. aripap

    Interesting side note. At Google they firmly believe I’m short roadmaps. Anything beyond two quarters is considered “fiction.”

    1. Rohan

      Very interesting..

  18. petenixey

    This is definitely true but I think it misses the art of that long roadmap which is not in how far it stretches but which waymarkers it’s coupled to.Too many entrepreneurs make detailed roadmaps that don’t take account of how things will change and are forced to change them. They confuse a roadmap with a set of tactics. Almost as bad is  not changing it and forcing teams to build product nobody will use. Never create a roadmap at all and you’ll be blown in the wind never becoming anything.The beauty of a roadmap like the beauty of a good mission statement is not in how far it reaches but which direction it points and how tangible it makes the journey to get there. Part of that is really understanding the bigger picture of what your company does and the value it creates which is not always as simple as it sounds.

    1. Rohan

      I agree with the direction part. But, I’m not sure about it making the journey ‘tangible’.That would again mean getting into the detail, no?

      1. petenixey

        @RohanThat’s a good question. I’m not quite sure what the balance is. The nature of a Big Hairy Audacious Goal is that it’s just slightly out of reach. At the same time being too far out of reach disillusions people. Either way a roadmap should surely be more detailed than just the vision.

        1. Rohan

          I guess the key lies somewhere in the balance word 🙂

  19. Luke Chamberlin

    When navigating across the Atlantic – a distance of about 3,000 miles – sailors of yore used the North Star to guide them – a point some 434 light-years away (over 2 1/2 quadrillion miles)!I like to think of vision as something that can’t be measured in terms of distance. It’s not a 5, 10 or 25 year plan. You set your sights on the horizon knowing the horizon can never be reached.

    1. Tom Labus

      Nicely said, Luke.

    2. Rohan

      nicely said…to find a good vision – search our feelings, we must. 🙂

    3. crunkykd

      I like that picture, tactics are a day-to-day moment-by-moment thing. It occupies our immediate attention but we have one eye always out looking at True North. When tricky decisions and choices come up we can compare them to our True North to help figure out how to proceed.

    4. andyidsinga

      thats awesome …sailing analogies are the best!

  20. Stanislas Polu

    I had the chance to watch the LiveStream, and you translated here really well what Dennis said there: long roadmaps, vision, realizing today stuff he thought about years ago… And [sorry for that :)] I think it’s *bullshit*. When I saw Dennis go down that way, my bullshit detector wen all red and flashing… And I might be wrong, I’m not even sure, but it’s my gut feeling…Seriously, we always hear the same story about how1- the big winners had it all planned from day 1 2- no matter how good were the losers, they were unfortunately operating in a very unpredictable environment, and they didn’t fit the market.May I remind that in most case, they’re both very talented human beings… the first got it all planned, the second had too much uncertainty… the first got it planned, the second couldn’t…Am I the only one to see a contradiction here?It’s very easy once you found some form of success to rebrand the whole story so that it looks crispier. We all do it. The only thing that annoys me is that when we’re talking about history, it’s called ‘revisionism’ and everybody hates it, while when we’re talking about entrepreneurship, it’s called ‘being cool’ and everybody loves it. The bigger problem is that it tricks people into thinking that the vision is essential, when what we really know is that we don’t have a fucking clue of what is essential to reach success. If Dennis knew, he would be much more successful, and if you knew Fred (but I’m sure you know better), you would be even richer! Enough with ranting… let’s get real for a minute…I know I’m kind of a bad or incomplete cofounder because I don’t buy enough in this kind of bullshit even though I know people (customer, VC, employees, press,…) absolutely need it to believe in your story. At the end, when I think about it, bullshit is kind of the catalyser of a bigger chemical reaction full of unknowns… add more catalyser, increase the efficiency… At the end, it makes some sort of sense :)I’m a technical cofounder, and I personally lack that catalyser a lot, but I’m lucky enough to have a cofounder who’s much better than me at that game… that’s what we call a team.Ccl: Dennis: he was right to nicely bullshit us yesterday!Fred: since you have vested interest, you are right to back his bullshit!Other (non entrepreneur): Foursquare is awesome, the guy MUST be a geniusOther (entrepreneur): Be careful of what you hear.Me: Back to work

    1. JLM

      Great rant.  Well ranted!A lot of visionary leadership is pure baloney.  So what?Sometimes baloney is what the followers need to be able to follow.  Nobody was ever inspired by being told — hey, we’re playing for third place and that’s pretty damn good for a bunch of knuckleheads like us.The victors always right the story and you are right the story is always grander than the reality.Most success has at its core LUCK.  Of course, if you get to work at 6:00 AM, you become a bit luckier.

      1. Stanislas Polu

        Agreed. Nicely summed up! Even though I sometime feel bad about that feeling, I still often feel that it’s all about simply getting a little bit luckier.But it doesn’t mean one shouldn’t reassure everybody else with nice words!

      2. fredwilson

        I roll into my office at 5amIts my home officeMy suit is pajamas

        1. William Mougayar

          Ditto…Actually, it starts by checking my iPhone from bed. Early morning hours are some of the most productive hours of the brain. It’s a waste that many spend them commuting instead. 

          1. Rohan

            Unless you are productive on the commute 😉

          2. karen_e

            I spend the early morning hours with my child. I am grateful I don’t have much of a commute, because I love to get to work, early, too.

          3. JLM

            OK, you have played trump and well played indeed! Nothing beats the bambinos and being Mom, nothing.You miss the hot breath pleasure of your babies when they are 6’4″.

        2. JLM

          And see how lucky Mr Fred has been!

        3. karen_e

          One of the conversations at the after party the other night was “what the blog used to be like in the old days.” I recall now that you used to blog about your morning bike rides. Are those a thing of the past?

          1. fredwilson

            Nope. I do that a few days a week. I do yoga more often though. Both are great mental health benefits

      3. Rohan

        Agree.And you never really know if it’s baloney, do you? Over time, experience tends to make us cynical and we look at everything through our lenses and forgot to change those spectacles every once a while..Truth is often vastly stranger than fiction..

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. Rohan

            I’d replace everyone with majority Grimster.

          2. laurie kalmanson

            The matrix has its roots in primitive arcade games. … Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts. … A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations ofdata. Like city lights, receding.http://en.wikipedia.org/wik

      4. Cam MacRae

        Jason Roberts of TechZing fame called this “increasing your luck surface area”. This tickles me.

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. JLM

            Are they really random or do the good things you invest in life come back with interest compounded at “sent percent”?

          2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


      5. andyidsinga

        hehe – i once had a boss ( totally awesome guy ) who would inspire us by calling us all knucklheads and other bad words…but that was really his form of leadership baloney ..he was such an amazing cheerleader, he was so beloved by our team, when he left our startup ( which was near death ) people actually cried.

    2. fredwilson

      It is not bullshit. It is totally true. But youve got your mind made up. Thats cool.

      1. Stanislas Polu

        Truth or bullshit does not really matter anyway… I guess it’s a question of vantage point…Nevertheless I’d love to know how much you value the “big nice story”, compared to “down the earth cold numbers” when evaluating teams / companies. Do you have other posts you may recall on that subject?

        1. fredwilson

          At the stage we invest there arent many numbers. We are gut investors

          1. Stanislas Polu

            Fair enough. I didn’t remember how early you invested in 4sq.1.35m round w/ 40k users +6m after launch… I have to admit… there mustn’t have been a whole lot of numbers! 🙂

          2. LE

            @spolu:disqus  is using his pattern matching just like you do when you make investments.  In this case he is wrong (according to what you are saying) but it’s almost like hearing a politician that says “I feel your pain” and thinking it’s all B.S.Note he did say “I think it’s *bullshit*……… And I might be wrong, I’m not even sure, but it’s my gut feeling…”Totally equivocal. But I would argue that even if he didn’t use “think” and “not even sure” and “my gut feeling” that is what he would have meant.

    3. Rohan

      Hmm. I hear you and see your point of view, Stanislas. :)I don’t agree with you though.As said below, truth can be vastly stranger than fiction.

      1. Stanislas Polu

        Can you elaborate on why you disagree… I’d love to see your point of view as well… I have to admit, even if I was ranting, it was mainly to push some ideas out there. The truth is I am often mesmerized by how much value is put in the kind of behavior we are talking about… Therefore, I’d love to get your point of view to better understand!

        1. Rohan

          My pleasure. 🙂 Here are the statements that I didn’t agree with.–1- the big winners had it all planned from day 1 –I don’t know if it is ever about ‘planning’ as much as it is about direction. I feel they are two very different things.  –The bigger problem is that it tricks people into thinking that the vision is essential, when what we really know is that we don’t have a fucking clue of what is essential to reach success.–Here, I had a couple of thoughts. I don’t think it is about ‘tricking’. ‘Begin with the end in mind’ is a basic principle that goes way beyond companies. It applies to ourselves as well. The idea again is just direction. We don’t know what the specifics are but it’s vital that we have conviction in our direction. Reminds me of a funny quote..’When I was young, I knew I always wanted to be somebody. Now I wish I was more specific.’ It’s ironic but direction DOES matter. And in my humble opinion, a vision just helps clarify the direction. –I know I’m kind of a bad or incomplete cofounder because I don’t buy enough in this kind of bullshit even though I know people (customer, VC, employees, press,…) absolutely need it to believe in your story.–I don’t know you at all to comment on this but I just feel here that we are all incomplete in our own way. And it’s nice that you found a co founder who is different. Having said that, I do think it’s fairly easy to be cynical of all stories. Of course, every success story has luck and timing involved. Of course! But, we’re not going to learn much talking about that. What I do find is that every success does start, in some way, with the ‘why’. And there’s a great essay on this by Albert Gray on the common denominator of success (http://www.alearningaday.co… where he sees that a salesman with a why always did better than a salesman without. (And it didn’t even matter what the why was – all the why did was give direction)–Other (entrepreneur): Be careful of what you hear.Me: Back to work–And I do sort of see where you are coming from. It can get tiring to examine successful people and try and find patterns etc.. having said that, I do feel we always have alteast 1 great lesson to learn from things that work. And for that, it’s often worth it.I understand you feel that these stories could just be told to look cool.. but I don’t. I choose to believe in the essential goodness of people. And yes, I can choose to believe that everyone out there is out to tell me a story and trick. I don’t though. And I find it to be a choice that makes me happier. :)But, then again, it’s a choice I make. And it’s how I choose to view the world. 🙂 —Sorry for the long rant, Stanislas. I’m half tempted to say you asked for it.. haha but thanks for asking. It’s nice to exchange points of view as you rightly pointed out.

          1. Donna Brewington White

            And you are only 22? Yikes. (Meant in the best possible way.)

          2. Rohan

            Awwwwww. And you are so sweet!! 😀

          3. Stanislas Polu

            Thanks Rohan for that awesome reply, I’ll read the blog post with a lot of interest! If you decide not to spend any time second-guessing what people say, it just makes sense. I guess it’s my technical background taking over, but at the end I think you’re probably right!

          4. Rohan

            I don’t know about right and wrong so much, Stanislas.  I’m beginning to realize that they’re just different ways of seeing the world. 🙂 Right and wrong is so relative.Though I do feel that it is relatively easier to assume that there is lots wrong with the world esp given the nature of the media – to feed us with that view every couple of hours.. But again, just my perspective/my bias.. And different is great, isn’t it? Else we wouldn’t be having this conversation.. 😉

    4. testtest

      The bigger problem is that it tricks people into thinking that the vision is essential, when what we really know is that we don’t have a fucking clue of what is essential to reach successplease!if you literally don’t have a clue then you’re playing the wrong game.clearly a distinction can be made about market sizes, technologies, human desires.hypotheses can be formed. long-term hypotheses, and short-term. technology doesn’t just appear, it’s created by people. people who had a vision of what should be.if there was no vision of the future, of what had to be made, I would actually throw my computer out of the window and burn all my books. what’s the point in being in technology if you can’t advance it significantly — creating n+1 products. forget the internet, we just need better books!vision is what disrupts, vision is what creates asymmetrical competition, vision is the most powerful tool an entrepreneur has imo.i know, lets not make hypothesis, lets just use data. wait a second! incumbent companies have more data, more capital resources, more intellectual capital. if you wait for the data it’s not anything like an equal fight! you can wait for the data. i’ll dream, hustle, and persist. and of course learn how the economy, technology, society, and people work.

      1. Stanislas Polu

        Dude, I am the first to agree with you. I love vision. I love iterating on stuff. I love creating new stuff, unfortunately, it’s not working that way.Innovation is not enough. Sorry if you thought otherwise, I myself learnt it the hard way.I almost became a scientist (the fantasy land where an idea is what matter), but decided to try to create real business to have real impact on the world… only it’s substantially harder.

        1. testtest

          i flattened my first 5 businesses, the most painful was the last, which was due to market size — i couldn’t scale it any further.i’ve worked nearly every day for the last 5 years. so yes, i know it’s hard. i’ve learnt numerous skill sets, starting from nothing each time. i’m not spouting airy-fairy fantasy at you. it’s lessons internalized.innovation is the driving force behind business, it’s one of the mechanisms that creates differentiation and pricing power. innovation implemented from steam power to network technologies creates competitive advantage. innovation creates white space, innovation kills old markets, innovation kills old businesses. technology, and thus innovation, propels the economy and raises living standards. innovation of tool creation defines homo sapiens (the knowing man). innovation in operations reduces cost, innovation in marketing sells product, innovation in business models devastates markets to their core.either that, or innovation isn’t that important, and it’s unfortunate that i’ve taken the time to learn about it. i should set up a business in a shrinking market, maybe typewriters or buggy whips. 

          1. Stanislas Polu

            You would probably be very successful applying some of your learnings to those decaying business… but anyway…Innovation. No.Innovation with a BizMo. Yes.One is the subset of the other.Only I think it’s a very very very small subset.

          2. testtest

            You would probably be very successful applying some of your learnings to those decaying business… but anyway…no i wouldn’t. any value in the marketplace is being captured by companies that haven’t exited.they have all the efficiencies, domain knowledge, marketing knowledge, customers etc.an increase in competitors puts downward pressure on prices until commoditization. that’s the point. innovation creates pricing power; that’s why companies like gillette are always bring out new products, for a trivial example.  Innovation. No.Innovation with a BizMo. Yes.One is the subset of the other.Only I think it’s a very very very small subset.there are lots of different types of innovation in business:- platform innovation- product innovation – application innovation- value engineering innovation- process innovation- value migration innovation- enhancement innovationyes, i agree that innovation within the boundaries of a company is a subset. but that doesn’t take away from its importance in either the subset or as a whole.much innovation comes from outside of business. look at movements such as the quantified self or open source hardware.and for that matter open source software! we wouldn’t have google or many of the other great internet companies without linux et al — licenses would make the business model inviable.

          3. JLM

            In terms of making money, the transformation of old economy small to medium sized businesses to new economy processes is where a LOT of money is being made and will be made in the future.

          4. Stanislas Polu

            I can’t reply on your later post (we’re too deep into the conversation) so I’ll reply here quickly:1- For the first part it’s called disruption. It changes the market equilibrium and opens up new opportunity for pricing power. More specifically than Gillette for what we were talking about, think about the rebranding of moleskin or the transition to e-commerce of decaying family held traditional product biz, which has seen some interesting successes! Actors in place have no clue of what ‘e-commerce’ mean. period.2- I think we pretty much agree here. But I have no doubt Google would be successful on Windows. Don’t ever forget that they make a shit load of money!

          5. testtest

            1- there’s massive saturation on search engines, with marketing costs increasing as google consolidates the long and mid tail into the head. the increasing content coming online every day also reduces opportunity in what is a zero-sum game. updates such as panda also make for treturous water (in SEO). this increases the risk profile of the business and increases the need to be seen as a brand — which increases costs further.these small e-commerce plays are a bad bet imho.i don’t fancy going into a market that’s contracting where companies are either migrating or trying to all furiously re-brand to save their business. not to mention the advantages i said before. 2- now they’re making a lot of money. there was a point when they nearly ran out.plus ~1,000,000 servers running windows, that seems expensive. then add non open source databases, http servers, desktop environments, office suites, outlook, programming languages, IDEs, and most other tools google use.if you’re saying innovation is crucial in both business and outside sources that influence business then we’re on the same page!

          6. Stanislas Polu

            Then we’re definitely on the same page 🙂



        1. testtest


        2. Carl Jonas

          Necessary but not sufficient.

    5. LE

      “my bullshit detector wen (sic) all red and flashing””It’s very easy once you found some form of success to rebrand the whole story so that it looks crispier.””I don’t buy enough in this kind of bullshit even though I know people (customer, VC, employees, press,…) absolutely need it to believe in your story.”Agree.I’m curious about this: Were you raised (or educated) by parents (or by others) that challenged you and didn’t let you get away with anything, say, pull the wool over their eyes?  As opposed to the opposite,  parents who patted you on the back and seemed to be amazed at your every utterance? I’ve noticed some patterns with this. I wonder if this is the case with you as well.

      1. Stanislas Polu

        My mother (who raised me alone while holding an executive position in a big pharmaceutical company) used to say: [translation] “I won’t offer you anything if you get good grades at school. You should work for yourself, so that you can do what you like when you grow up”But I’d like to think that it’s not all linked to education… We’re all free not to bullshit others and be transparent & straightforward!

        1. LE

          “holding an executive position in a big pharmaceutical company”Ok  so the pattern holds in that case. Based on your writing I concluded that your parents were not dummies. My observation has been  that someone who, as a child, is able to pull the wool over their parents eyes is more likely to feel they can take advantage of others. To much to talk about in a reply here, but that’s the basic idea. Some of the great recent con men fit this pattern. They don’t wonder “geez – who would believe that” since they aren’t raised by people who call them out on things and are able to challenge them.



  21. kareemk

    A key point in my mind is that a roadmap is not a plan. A roadmap is a dream that the founder holds which gets re-imagined every day as the product gains traction, the realm of possibility with technology changes and the marketplace evolves. I see too many founders treating the roadmap as a plan that they need to march their team down, generals leading their troops. Founders should be the sherpas that inspire their team to dream their dream, own it and turn it into a tangible reality.

    1. Kevin Pillow

      I agree for the most part, a teams ability to be dynamic as their product/service grows seems to be a constant variable of start ups closing out favorable financing rounds. But I also think once the company has a path they need to stay very close to it in terms of new products or  features. 80% of employee labor should be dedicated to company operations and 20% can be used for employee Labs.

    2. San Kim

      Amen. In my mind it’s the difference between a “product roadmap” and “company roadmap.” Keep the product roadmap short and the company roadmap long.

    3. Rohan

      Agree Kareem, I feel the same. it’s a dream that gives direction.We work out the specifics.



  22. PhilipSugar

    It is the DNA of an entrepreneur.I liken it to my favorite subject Newtonian PhysicsOne you see the answer to a problem its obvious: everybody can solveWhen you know what theorem you are going to solve the problem its straightforward: smart and hard work are required, Smart people can solveWhen you have the problem defined you can work towards a solution: now you need creativity and knowledge. Many can’t figure it out.What happens when you don’t even know the problem??  That’s what being an entrepreneur is most don’t even know where to start or what to do.BTW: this is why I hate “no child left behind tests”  What makes America great is that we have people that can solve that last paragraph. 

    1. fredwilson


    2. Rohan

      The Wayne Gretzky quote..Skate where the puck s going.. Very hard to do, that is.



  23. Kevin Pillow

    Food for thought I received a few days ago,There’s nothing wrong with having a plan.Plans are great.But missions are better. Missions survive when plans fail, and plans almost always fail. -Seth Godin Found a reason to use bit.ly, http://bit.ly/Originalsource

    1. Rohan

      I loved this, Kevin. Seth has a piece of genius every once in a while. And this one was right up there.

      1. andyidsinga

        more than every once in a while 😉

        1. Rohan


        2. Serge Harris

          Thank you

    2. San Kim

      Love it!

    3. Alexander Close

      Word.Just browsed interesting missions over on Zyngas S-1.From what I gather, they aren’t on a mission to just pump out games, or build one specific game.  Their mission is rather to connect the world, through games; much longer roadmap.http://1.usa.gov/uZL6y2 Favorite quote… “My kids decided a few months ago that peek-a-boo was their favorite game. While it’s unlikely we can improve upon this classic, I look forward to playing Zynga games with them very soon.”

    4. Dave W Baldwin

      Thanks for clarifying the bigger subject Kevin!

  24. awaldstein

    It’s great to see you use the word ‘magic’ Fred. It describes the wonder of that rare occasion when impossible stuff happens and changes the world.But, it’s rare. And the idea of a roadmap that extends as far as a visionary idea is equally as rare.This post is all parable and inspiration to me. I can always use as much of this as I can find.

    1. Rohan

      ‘I can always use as much of this as I can find’ Reminds me of a client of Zig Ziglar who once said ‘Ziglar, your motivation stuff doesn’t work. It’s effect doesn’t last beyond a day’.’Neither does a bath. That’s why you take one every day.’;-)

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Me too, Arnold.  Goes beyond the context here… much broader application for those who want it.



      1. awaldstein

        We agree on this GL.I’ve been fortunate enough to be on a team or two that got close a few times. That’s why i’m so perpetually optimistic.

  25. Meshin

    Really great perspective has really great inspiration. Great post, Fred.

  26. heuristocrat

    Part of what I love about the roadmap concept is that it is aspirational and inspirational while being very powerful for developing a real business. Plans are useful but tend to be operational and more restricted to getting the near and medium term stuff done. 

  27. laurie kalmanson

    magic, dreams, plans: mix well and serve



      1. laurie kalmanson

        life is what happens after you make plans; startups, too

  28. Sebastian Wain

    BTW, If someone is interested I shared a few days ago the vision for a product that I think is innovative for the web. It’s not the complete roadmap but everybody can build something around it:Egont (inspiration): Ideas: Egont, A Web Orchestration LanguageEgont (description and summary): Egont (part II)Hope that it’s useful for the discussion and to give a better web personalization in the future.

  29. howardlindzon

    EXACTLY.  and why sometimed you don’t just need VC’ss, but GREAT VC’s.  THis must be followed up….

  30. Eunice Apia

    That Festival looks amazing. I used to sneak into NYU tech events and pretend I was a student. It was like living a double life, being that I’ve never been to college, if you don’t count the miserable months I spent at F.I.T.I should go back to sneaking into NYU tech events.

  31. Michael Beckner

    Great post. This reminds me of when I was introduced to the concept of backcasting, which I think is essential for any product-oriented person to understand. Here’s a video from the guy, Mohan Sawhney, who told me about it: http://www.youtube.com/watc…Incidentally, if you have the means to get him to speak to you, do it — he’s super smart, super well connected, and absolutely hilarious.

    1. William Mougayar

      Yup, Mohan is a good friend, but these remarks apply to large enterprises that need a lot of help to get into out-of-the-box visioning. In the start-up world the vision is inside the entrepreneur’s bones. They don’t need any process assistance.

      1. Michael Beckner

        Hmm. I’m not convinced that because (e.g.) he used Boeing is an example, the applicability is somehow lost.Marc Andreesen rails on product/market fit. Backcasting is super handy in this regard, since the obvious downside, among many, is just slinging stuff at the wall to see what sticks. I’ve just been advising a colleague with a solid early stage product but hadn’t fully done the bigger picture thinking, and the result was an increasingly great product that was tilting at chimeras. I helped him game out the business, and he’s not only gotten funding but is attracting exactly the right kind of attention from business prospects, and at an increasing rate. Sure, he could have eventually stumbled into it, but that’s probably not likely given the time most like him have to spend between building a great product and scaring up dollars (whether through sales or financing).Now, perhaps this is better for opportunity v. pure solution types of startup scenarios. But that’s not to say it isn’t relevant to any startup.

        1. William Mougayar

          We might be confusing product vision with go-to-market approaches. I’ve been on both sides of the fences, large Fortune Co’s and entrepreneurial,- twice back and forth (Big-Small-Big-Small) and I’m seeing more and more that certain elements that make a lot of sense for the enterprise don’t mean a hoot for the startup, and vice-versa.

  32. ErikSchwartz

    You need a vision of where you want things to be in the distant future, I don’t see that as a product road map the way most PMs think about it with features. You need to know what the first steps are, you need an end vision to measure if interim steps get you closer or if they are a distraction. But it’s not what anything like a PRD.FWIW, the vision for SynchronizeTV is “We have a vision for the future of television — We envision a seamless world where data, video, and control are shared amongst the personal (smartphone, tablet, laptop) and public (TV) screens in the living room. The optimal screen is used for controlling and consuming media based on data type and usage — The first step in achieving that vision is synchronizeTV.”

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Go with that vision Erik.  It is frustrating when folks can’t grasp the longer stretch, but of course are all over it when it becomes fad.

    2. JLM

      Very succinct, believable and articulate vision.  I like it.Well played!

  33. hypermark

    This is great. I would only caveat that experience suggests that while it’s reasonably straightforward how to manage for the short-term OR how to manage for the long-term, doing BOTH at the same time is really hard. That’s why we see an industry with so many cool point solutions that have no legs behind them, or great vision products that fail to solve a 1.0 problem for a core audience.Great entrepreneurs grok and sweat the details on solving 1.0 problems while having a coherent view of the ‘have to haves’ and ‘can’t haves’ required to grow into 3.0 and beyond.A great road map reconciles vision, strategy and tactics.



  34. Donna Brewington White

    So does every company you invest in have a product roadmap at the outset so that this factors into the investment decision? Also, it seems that there should be ways to at least impart some of the larger vision into the initial launch and early iterations to help consumers buy into the longer term vision. For instance, I would have been a much more avid user of Foursquare earlier on if I had a better idea of where it was headed, although I realize that some plans need to be kept under wraps for sake of competitiveness.This is where it seems that startups can benefit from the type of strategic marketing thinking that takes into account the competitive factors and product roadmap while also determining how to most effectively and successfully engage the consumer both short- and long-term.(edited)

    1. Stanislas Polu

      You would probably have understood it early on… what about the rest of the +-10million users?

    2. Rajdeep Junnarkar

      As an entrepreneur this was the 1st question that popped into my head when I read Fred’s post. When pitching to investors one is barely given 10 mins, but if a well thought out roadmap is presented it can help investors judge the capabilities of the entrepreneur & whether he’s doing it for the money or the passion for the product. Maybe this is something investors will start asking for in order to drive investment decisions & to drive higher successes among their startups.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Good points, Rajdeep. How do you think the roadmap will indicate whether the entrepreneur is “doing it for the money or the passion for the product”?

        1. Rajdeep Junnarkar

          When one isn’t able to see the potential of the product beyond the current set of features you have an entrepreneur that hasn’t thought out the potential in the product. He is most likely focused on flipping the company at the 1st opportunity he gets. But those that have a preconceived vision of a roadmap for their product at the onset, maintain a belief that the best is yet to come through the added value these roadmap items will provide. These entrepreneurs are the ones that turn down acquisition offers, choosing instead to realize their vision without new-owner interference & grow their companies into sustainable businesses.

        2. Rajdeep Junnarkar

          Coincidentally, Alexa Tsotsis from Techcrunch posted a plea to make stuff that actually holds value & isn’t a one-trick pony.http://techcrunch.com/2011/…And this is what it really comes down to – apps vs. services. Apps are feature limited products that provide short term usefulness. Services are a set of products that grow over time & become an integral part of one’s life. Those that can actually be deemed as businesses. 



      1. Dave W Baldwin

        Understand point, but disagree with what level you set bar defining vision 😉  Hard for me to explain, but vision requires knowing what will happen and how it relates to your project/mission… being able to group/subgroup enables foundation to build muscle to combat interests that want to retard progress.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          I think I get what you are saying.Seems that in order for vision to mean anything it must somehow bridge present and future realities — or at least this “bridge” must accompany vision.  Vision is lived out in the present even if not fully accomplished in the present.

          1. Dave W Baldwin

            Very good. Regarding “Lived out in the present even if not fully accomplished in the present.”, remember that a vision is long term meaning it isn’t something that fails because you’re not handed some oversized funding check in six weeks.The danger of romantisizing a story of some quick success being just a peg in a bigger vision is convenient history.  Usually, that is a story used to intimidate potential following/funding of someone else.  On top of that, whatever it is they claim is the new part of their ongoing peg of the original vision is built on inferior platform.  So now they can be working with $100 million and look flat footed.All I know is the way to deliver a broad spectrum of beneficial progress we can expect in 2022-25 backward to 2017-19.  Doing that requires understanding of multiple paths accelerating and doing the deed to deliver the missing element.  That missing element will accelerate the other pathways.

        2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. Dave W Baldwin

            Once again my friend, you try to change meaning of what I say.  I never have referred to the ONE thing of something 10 years from now.  OTOH, if I were to say with my success we could turn back the success date of something like cancer by towards five years does that mean I’m basing everything on that ONE thing?  No.What I’m doing is much farther reaching than most reading this can understand… and that is not meant condenscending, just a matter of a simple truth.BTW, I can tell future based on points 18 months, 3 years and over to 10 with pretty damn good accuracy.  Yet, even with that, I do not plan one detail re today based on what is going to be at 7:30pm on 11/13/21   😉

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Vision has to influence the present or it is irrelevant.

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


  35. Bernardo Carvalho

    There’s this and there’s serendipity. Dennis Crowley may have the future of Foursquare figured out from here to 2025, but success can also come (and often does) from figuring it out as you move along. Ev Williams founded Pyra to build web-based project management software. What came out of it was Blogger. Then he started Odeo and what came out of it was Twitter. I think you’ll find a number of successful start-up founders who are visionaries. But are they *the best*? Not sure – never underestimate the power of winging it.

    1. fredwilson

      no disrespect for Ev. he’s a terrific entrepreneur. but the reason Twitter came out of Odeo is that Jack had been imagining Twitter for years already when he was hired to work as a developer at Odeo

      1. Alex Murphy

        In my opinion, the best ideas seem to be derivative work from a single person or small group that are influenced over an extended period of time.  Ipad was an outcome of iphone (yes, I know that ipad was thought of first, but it evolved based upon successes from the iphone) ipod, mac system, pixar, time away from apple, and early apple computers.  The best work takes a long long time.  Having a long term road map helps prioritize what to do today because you are thinking about how it will all stack together.  The best seem to have that vision with the flexibility to change the path along the way as the horizon becomes more clear.

      2. Bernardo Carvalho

        And no disrespect for Jack, but did he really have this completed vision of Twitter in his mind? I read once the initial idea was to build a dispatch system for bike messengers or something, which was then merged with the concept of broadcasting a status updateI saw an interesting analogy today from Brian Eno – the architect vs. the gardener. I think it captures what I wanted to say:http://edge.org/conversatio…The architect carries the completed work on in head, the gardener plants seeds and waits to see what comes up. My point is that those are two valid approaches to innovation. 

        1. fredwilson

          Yes he did

          1. Bernardo Carvalho

            Coincidentally, I came across this article minutes ago:”Jack Dorsey: Twitter’s business model based on ‘serendipity'”http://news.cnet.com/8301-1…I think that was my point, and that it is fine – there’s more than one path to success.



      1. Dave W Baldwin


  36. JimHirshfield

    If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.I can’t remember where I heard this. Point is, you need a plan or a destination. Otherwise you’re wandering aimlessly. Plans will likely change over time, but that’s an outcome of what you learn along the way.

  37. Howard Yeh

    I think having a roadmap is really an indication of wanting something built, rather than some sort of oracular vision. I was at StartupSchool 2011. What struck me about Mark Zuckerberg was that he’s not doing Facebook  for the money, or even for the sheer ego-pleasure of creating “something big”. He simply just want to see that it exists. A company is the best social organization to make dream come true.



  38. Anon

    Mark is waiting for someone else to build that game first, then he can copy it.

  39. FlavioGomes

    Out of all the posts you’ve ever written Fred….this one resonates with me most.At times I feel overwhelmed with thoughts of what the future could be…the frustration in waiting for your “real” project to begin…Thanks for the inspiration on this….(amongst many others)



  40. vruz

    This is encouraging.

  41. vruz

    This is encouraging.

  42. Nathan Hangen

    This is evident in Google+’s copying of Facebook. Even though they did it faster, and in many ways, better, they still don’t have the rest of the story, so they are stuck in drive not knowing if they’ll miss a turn or even reach the destination.It’s the vision that leads you to where you’re going, not the ability to duplicate features. 

    1. fredwilson


    2. Rajdeep Junnarkar

      Agree. But then there’s the possibility of the copy cat out-innovating the original. Case in point – Facebook was not the 1st social network, nor the 2nd. They developed a vision & started realizing it. For Google, their MVP had to be a Facebook+Twitter product. And given the resources they have it’d wouldn’t have take too long. At this point if they have to beat the incumbents they need to out-innovate by not copying but coming up with unique value props that leverage the rest of their Google products.



        1. andyidsinga

          that is a profoundly accurate statement FG!Its not only google either – its surprising how often a person’s reaction to a success in the market is to try to decompose it and then proclaim “here are the features we need to compete in this market”.when i fall into this trap i go read all the posts ive bookmarked that encourage ignoring the competition and focusing on your own form of magic 😉

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK




  43. Dave W Baldwin

    Great post and batch of replies that show how some cannot define long vs. short. If your plan is to take what another has, add some meaningless feature and call it something else, that is not long.  To be all over a company that cannot speak and repeat verbatum what is quoted in sloppy press shows lack of understanding pertaining to long.To look at truly long picture requires fashioning something that isn’t here with a realistic understanding regarding when you can put it into play.  If you do this to be truly disruptive, then you need to test the longer vision in what you learn from today’s market and lack of aptitude in many corners (Prod Dev, Marketing, Platform Architect…..).Understanding long picture offers clarity in realizing potential Acquisition vs. Mergers and/or staying Independent.



      1. Dave W Baldwin

        Well put.  I’m in debt to many who have helped me put those two lines into perspective and realization.  Thanks.

  44. Rick Bullotta

    True that, Fred.  You also often need a “Jobsian” focus which includes the ability to avoid being distracted by shiny objects and early customers.  You need to be able to react when the world changes, and to amp it up when an opportunity to leap the plan forward presents itself.  But most of all you have to believe in your plan and your vision and have the ability to assemble a team of people who also believe, and can help make it a reality. 

  45. Texas Business Attorney

    I’ve always encouraged this  “long roadmaps” approach for tech startups as a method to keep the team focused on building a solid platform, product, or service that stands on its own (not just a feature) and carries a value that competitors and me-too challengers can’t copy.  Would like to see more discussion on this.

  46. karen_e

    I just love this post. Something about sailors and staying the course should be said as well. I look to the poets.

  47. Alper Cugun

    Like you give in your example it does even happen if founder’s are intermittently engaged with their companies, because the vision stays alive.I am now in a position where three different organizations are working in parallel on pieces of the same grand vision, which is messy, but also gives rise to a great many interesting possibilities.

  48. Leslie Barry

    Roadmaps in this context reflect the ‘Purpose’ of the company. Product Roadmaps, Company Roadmaps. Missions and Pivoting will all be led by the overall reason for existing. The great thing about Purpose is that it is idealistic and often illogical – perfect for entrepeneurs that want to stretch the boundaries of what’s currently possible.

  49. William Mougayar

    Is the replay available yet? I’d like to watch that interview! 

    1. fredwilson

      I will post it when it goes up

      1. William Mougayar

        That would be great. Thanks.

  50. Nic Fulton

    When you company is acquired I’d have thought that “roadmap” because the property of the buyer. Does this mean Google ought to be demanding a part of Foursquare given Dennis’s admission that he had the roadmap before Google? As someone working in the IP business for a large consumer electronics company this is top of mind all the time. That I should shut-up about new ideas that aren’t relevant to my daily work in case I ever want to develop them later.

    1. fredwilson

      http://mashable.com/2010/07…everybody is copying everyone else these daysi think the notion of IP is nonsense in tech at this point

  51. Tom Labus

    When Buffett announced his investment in IBM this morning he cited their ability to design and deliver on their “roadmap”

  52. Graham Siener

    Steve and Jared of GroupMe often refer to the roadmap they had worked out from their very first conversation. I think people lose sight of this in all of the Lean Startup craze. Lean is an efficient way to reach your vision, not define it.

  53. Nira de Waele-Talova

    We started having a clear roadmap in front of us, too clear to be honest. We were struggling (and still are) translating the “big plan” to small steps and how to get there. We were developing and operating as we would like to be 5 years in the future, loosing our way on how to get there. Making mistakes like releasing too soon and others (probably still to come). The art IMO, is to find the balance of keeping the roadmap at the back of your mind while paving the way how to get there. At least this is what we are doing now…

  54. Volnado

    Sometimes my roadmap seems so long that its daunting. Its good to see that this is a good problem to have and that other entrepreneurs experience this.

  55. Herbert Pinder Jr.

    “The prophet and the martyr do not see the hooting throng. Their eyes are fixed on the eternities.” – Benjamin N. Cardozo

  56. tacanderson

    The caveat for visionary entrepreneurs: “If they can stay engaged in their companies”

  57. CHopeMurray

    I agree, Kareem, that roadmaps are not plans, although they play a very important part in any planning cycle.  A roadmap is a set of signposts or staging posts across a geography that enables generals or business leaders to determine tactical and strategic activities to achieve a distant vision or goal.  The important thing to remember is that once any signpost or marker as been reached the first action is to review new intelligence about the geography, events or conditions that may require a modification in tactical or strategic planning.  Roadmaps are important for helping to determine direction and break down the steps required to reach the vision/goal but they are solely reference points for requirements, detailed planning and implementation controlled by an SDLC or PMLC. 

  58. markslater

    what is check in culture?

  59. Wesley Verhoeve

    In my little bubble foursquare check ins are the norm. I was surprised to find that when I went to SF a few months ago there were venues where I could snap up mayorships with ease. Much less checking in taking place, which was disappointing to me. I have big time NYC Startup Pride so I do tend to evangelize and be a heavy user of our local products.

  60. fredwilson

    i guess you aren’t connected to the same people as i am on foursquare. it is by far the most active and engaged social network i belong to. 

  61. tyronerubin

    Interesting. It’s just so obvious though in terms of foursquare, gowalla, FB, google etc. Leans for me towards the theme of seamless and frictionless tech. When I go out to a bar, event, supermarket, my phone and it tells me who I know, who I want to meet in that place. What the specials, benefits are. Great push technology. That changes the way we all used to have to randomly seek out people, things and deals.

  62. fredwilson

    please don’t make the mistake of hearing only one side of the story when the other side can’t talk because they are in a quiet period. when the truth can and will come out, i think you will realize what zynga does is not only fair and equitable, it is doing it in the interest of fairness for everyone. but you can do one thing. go look at Zynga’s S1 and look at how much stock employees and former employees own versus how much stock Mark owns. mark is generous to a fault in my opinion.

  63. ErikSchwartz

    There are a lot of people at fast growing companies who “vest in peace”. They are a cancer at a start up. You must excise them.

  64. tyronerubin

    I also heard that ONE side of the story, but whenever I have heard Mark Pincus talk he seems damn genuin so it totally looked like journalistic fodder. interesting read suggested from @fredwilson:disqus http://www.sec.gov/Archives…

  65. sujal

    So, the question to me is what lesson I should take out of watching this happen. I like the idea of a meritocracy, but this seems like they had an oops moment (the allocation didn’t match their ideals).Is there another way to allocate options to adjust them over time? Maybe some variation of Spolsky’s system for compensation (http://www.joelonsoftware.c… where there are yearly grants that match their review system?Or is this sort of post-grant correction inevitable if you want to have the allocations reflect contributions and merit (setting aside the question of whether objective measures of ‘merit’ or performance exist or not).Sujal

  66. LE

    “hearing only one side of the story when the other side can’t talk”That’s what people do. (That’s what’s happening also with the Penn State story as well. Everyone’s guilty. That’s that. Death threats.)The zynga story is front page now and that is when the damage is being done.http://www.klonix.org/nov20http://www.klonix.org/nov20…There is nothing new about this phenomena. By the time they can talk the story will buried on page 3…As a suggestion, there is nothing to prevent *others* from getting out the other side of the story in a concerted PR effort to clear the air. It doesn’t have to be an official Zynga response.

  67. Donna Brewington White

    Words to the wise.Ironic that in a post on taking a long view, this situation comes up where we on the outside have only a short view and people are jumping to conclusions.When we submit to manipulation by the media, it only encourages them.

  68. fredwilson

    My kids have vibrant foursquare networks too

  69. fredwilson

    And it takes more than a company’s founders and VCs to do a billion checkins

  70. Cam MacRae

    Foursquare is the only SN I use every day.

  71. fredwilson

    You can have any system you want but you still have to compete with google and facebook for talent. They set the market price and you have to deal with it

  72. fredwilson

    The people who know are also obligated to keep quiet

  73. Kevin Pillow

    I feel like all these new services for the check in culture might lead to a new form of internet pollution.  Its exciting to see how engaging the internet is becoming but too much too quickly may make people feel like the culture is being forced on them.I saw this on Reddit front page, it was up voted to 1st with 2253 karma points. The title of the thread is, Is anyone else tired of this crap all over the internet http://bit.ly/threadlink.Do you think internet pollution is a valid concern on the horizon?

  74. Dave W Baldwin

    Well put Donna.