Mocked And Misunderstood

When people ask me, "how do you know which companies and services are going to be the biggest successes?", I usually tell them to look for the companies and services that are mocked and misunderstood. For some reason, that correlates highly with the biggest breakout successes.

Twitter is a great example of this. For years, every post, column, or article written about Twitter would have comment after comment making fun of a service where people "told the world what they had for lunch." Of course, people were doing that on Twitter and people still do that on Twitter. But what those mocking Twitter were missing is that in between the tweets about pizza and pita were posts about politics and poetry. There was substance in the midst of nonsense.

And all the while that those mocking Twitter were obsessing about the nonsense, the substance was increasing and the usage was growing. Comscore has Twitter's monthly users at ~170mm people worldwide, up >60% in the past year. That makes Twitter one of the top twenty websites in the world and it is growing faster than most of those twenty websites. That is what I call "breakout success."

I woke up thinking about this because before I went to bed last night I watched last night's episode of Rock Center with Brian Williams. They had a piece on our portfolio company Kickstarter. The piece itself was pretty good. But at the end, Brian Williams discussed it with the Kate Snow (who did the piece), and he said something like "so this is like the guy on the street asking for a handout?".

Yeah, just like that Brian.

Kickstarter couldn't be farther from the "guy on the street asking for a handout" and yet that was Brian's takeaway after watching the piece (or maybe he didn't watch it). Either way he mocked Kickstarter and misunderstands it. And that is fine with me. Because its a signal that Kickstarter is on to something big.

I knew that already, but situations like this are reinforcing for me. They are the "tell". So when your company and services gets mocked and is misunderstood by most everyone, particularly the mainstream press and media, just smile and keep doing what you are doing. You are on to something big.

Startup quote

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#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. ShanaC

    This post makes me feel better about being teased growing up.  Switch out “company” for “person”, and you have a post that is really about how some of us really don’t get other people as well as we claim, but eventually we do.Then again, companies are in a certain way baby people.  Really abstracted baby people.

    1. Rohan

      We all are picked on when we grow up, Shana. But, that’s just stimulus. We get hit. We fall.We just have to ‘fall like a seed to germinate.. and not like a leaf to die.’ Bounce-back-ability. Great for companies. And even greater for our lives.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Picked on for being 3 feet tall?Great things come in small packages, Jedi master.

        1. Rohan

          Indeed.Size matters not. 😉

      2. ShanaC

        right, everyone has to go through a learning process, which is why we all “pivot” at some point (both as people and companies)

        1. Rohan

          We keep pivoting.It’s a journey of failures.And a journey of bouncing back from them.And hence, a journey in pivoting!IMO 🙂

      3. Donna Brewington White

        Oh the heavy conversations we could have about this, Rohan.  Someday.I’d rather it be in England, than here, though.  You’ve got the perfect places for that sort of thing.  

        1. Rohan

          Before August then. I’m leaving England by then..For now, I’m just looking forward to our meet Donna.. England or not..Haha

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Me too, Shana.  As I was reading this post, thought about how this can refer to people as well.  I was “one of those” who never quite fit in…teased.   You learn to mistrust criticism, then have to learn to trust it.  A benefit is that now very little frightens me.  Even truth about myself.

    3. Rahul Deodhar

      Like the proverbial ugly duckling or jonathan seagull?

    4. JamesHRH

      Most super models were mocked & misunderstood in high school.Lots of artists too.

  2. LIAD

    Plays into Disruptive Innovation too.Products may not be mocked conceptually like Twitter/Kickstarter but may be mocked due to (sparse) functionality, choice of (low-end) customer or (counter-intuitive) business model. Same difference though….as Gandhi said – First they ignore you, then they mock you, then you whoop their ass.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah. who knew that Ghandi is a role model for entrepreneurs?

      1. weemundo

        It’s Gandhi, good sir. Not Ghandi 🙂

        1. fredwilson

          right. thanks for correcting me

          1. Sasha Chh

            Not even Gandhi though, it was actually Nicholas Klein

  3. Om

    Hey FredForget what a pitch man on a rapidly declining medium thinks. As I have said in the past, kick starter is the company that will change how we life and create and consume. Kick starter is and will be a massive agent of social change.

    1. fredwilson

      from your mouth to gods ears Omit’s great to hear from youi hope you are well and that 2012 will bring good things to you

      1. Om

        I hope you and the family have a great 2o12 as well. Thanks for writing every day.

        1. fredwilson

          it is my meditation!

        2. fredwilson

          i like your post on berlin. just read it

    2. William Mougayar

      Agreed totally. It’s what Kickstarter enables that’s the story. If they had focused on the stories about what’s coming out of it, then their audience (and Brian Williams) might have better understood.

      1. Josh Ledgard

        I thought they did a decent job of finding a couple of success stories… however they mostly showed the entertaining clips of crazies that didn’t look much more sane than the people standing on the street corner. They also failed to mention how the most successful projects give the “donators” pre-sales essentially.  They are just paying in advance if they reach the goal. I was disappointed they didn’t mention that. 

  4. Rohan

    Ha.First they ignore you..then they laugh at you..then they fight you..then you win..Like @egoboss would say, waiting for the last part to come true! 😉

  5. Raj

    That’s disappointing.  I really like Brian Williams.But CNN and NBC have become new media meme trackers.  It’s hard to take them seriously these days.

    1. fredwilson

      i like brian as well. i tweeted that out in reply to a tweet this morning!/fred…

  6. andyswan

    There’s no such thing as bad press*.  Ask Sarah Palin.*this is mostly true because the press is full of morons trying to fit something into their 90-second thought template.

    1. fredwilson


  7. DonRyan

    It’s the first mover thing in spades. The early adopters see it, embrace it, and provide initial traction. Somewhere along the line the normals (HT @cdixon) discover the service and it becomes a mainstream hit. I thought last night’s story was pretty good for one reason- exposure. I look for a major uptick in traffic and submissions to Kickstarter. Best of luck to them (it’s a terrific site). 

    1. fredwilson

      thanks Don

  8. David Lee

    great post, fred. when something is mocked, that’s usually a good sign. much better than the alternative – being ignored. and it usually pertains to the ‘triviality’ of the service (“this is only a feature”; “why would anyone want to tweet/check-in/pin”)  i’m working on a post on this so thx for the inspiration!

    1. fredwilson

      it’s a meme now! looking forward to your post David

        1. fredwilson

          just read it and commented

  9. Sheamus

    “So when your company and services gets mocked and is misunderstood by most everyone, particularly the mainstream press and media, just smile and keep doing what you are doing. You are on to something big.”That’s a bit of a sweeping statement, Fred. Twitter is a great example of where this is true, and Kickstarter appears to have legs, but you’ll have to admit you’re being a little selective here. Nice as it sounds, that doesn’t mean it’s a hard and fast rule for everybody. In fact, the opposite is still more likely to be the reality for both new companies and existing, proven companies with new products.Just like people, companies like to think they’re misunderstood, or ‘ahead of their time’. And yeah, sometimes they are. But usually they’re just way off-base.

    1. fredwilson

      ok, i accept that critique. maybe i should qualify it for services that have taken off at some level and are being mocked and misunderstood.

      1. kenberger

        I think this critique is a very strong point, Fred. Strong and critical enough to edit the post to add qualification. There is a formal fallacy being committed here without it. Maybe something like…, not sure.SOOO many companies I’ve consulted to over the years use this. “Sure Ken, we accept you think it’s a dumb idea or we shouldn’t do it– and that’s why we will run with it, ‘they laughed at Edison’, etc”. It’s admittedly hard for me to continue at that point because I don’t want to be known as the killer of dreams. But the fact is there are plenty of groups or ideas who should in fact either totally quit or seriously pivot, and they might not if they take the advice above verbatim as it’s written currently.

        1. leif erickson

          Many will not pivot on account of either a) fear or b) not having the foresight to see the chance to change and take advantage of what they have had put in front of them.

        2. fredwilson

          i don’t want to rewrite the postmaybe i’ll do a follow-up post

          1. Alex Murphy

            IMHO – The follow up post should really be about understanding traction.  Having the main stream understand your product is not what you need to have found traction.  Traction is when enough people give a shit about your product that they keep using it over and over and tell their friends about it which makes it grow and grow.  Seems to me that this often starts with a small group of users but grows and grows over time.You don’t really need to write about the fact that there are a lot of bad ideas out there.  We all test ideas over and over again to see what sticks.  Just because we think it is a good idea doesn’t mean it is.  I tend to think that there are more bad ideas than good ideas and that the key to success is the ability to move on from the bad ones that really helps us find success, more so than being able to “find” the good ones.

          2. William Mougayar

            I think you’ve made your point very well, and the comments have rounded it off. The bigger the idea and the more disruptive it is, the more criticism it will gather- that’s normal. Traction as you alluded is the proof point that it’s being successful.

          3. FAKE GRIMLOCK


        3. Donna Brewington White

          Don’t you find that by the time companies get to this point, they are beyond listening to advice and will only hear what supports their beliefs about the company?

          1. kenberger

            too frequently, yes. It’s frustrating to try and help then.And you know what? Once in a while, a few do succeed anyway. They find a way to bang their head against a brick wall that does break the wall. Although it’s usually due to a pivot after all.

          2. Donna Brewington White

            And don’t you love it when you are wrong…when they succeed against all odds? Sent via mobileedit: Make that “when WE are wrong”…as a consultant of sorts must include myself in this…

        4. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. panterosa,

            they laugh at mei laugh back

          2. Alex Murphy

            when given the choice of laughter or tears, always go with the former!

          3. Dorian Benkoil

            Bozo provided a useful service. Satirists and comedians touch a nerve. I would hazard that Bozo was quite successful.

          4. FAKE GRIMLOCK


      2. abhic

        I guess I just read between the lines as far as that goes. As soon as I think of a service and consider ‘what-would-fred-do’ I check if its ‘an active community of engaged users’.The post just made sense, in that context.

      3. André DeMarre

        Perhaps the lion’s share of mocked services really aren’t good ideas, and the ones that are great aren’t mocked and misunderstood by all, just some.What I take from your post is the thought that many of the biggest game-changing successes were mocked, so the next big thing is likely a subset of services being mocked.In other words, if you really believe in your product, you shouldn’t be discouraged if it is being mocked. In fact, if you know you have something revolutionary, then the ridicule is exactly what you should expect. You’re in good company, and now it’s up to you to prove the others wrong.

    2. Rohan

      I think that’s a strong counter point Sheamus. It’s like the issue with the Grief framework (DABDA – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance). Even if you are not in grief, you can be said to be in Denial. :)Similarly, here, I do think it’s a bit of a sweeping statement because Fred seems to be  referring to the businesses he has invested in.. and he has generally shown great judgment with his past investments. So, I can see his point of view..When it comes to the rest of the businesses out there.. the chances are that they are being laughed at for good reason.Context is everything.. 

    3. David Singer

      Not entirely on topic with Fred’s post, but wanted to say I saw the opposite of Kickstarter and Twitter.  Kickstarter looks successful already, not only in traction, but in having a business model.  Twitter is enormous, but, well, they’re enormous, and that seems to be it.

      1. fredwilson

        that is not it david. i can’t say more. but i can assure you that it is more than “enormous”

        1. David Singer

          Fred, as a user with very simple business interaction with them, it appears as though its size is its value, at least as of today.  I understand there are some revenue streams, but as a company that still took on a lot of funding within the past 6 months, it’s hard to see when that flips given the rate of growth (and enormity) of it all. Almost as if size in this case is the blessing and the hindrance at the same time.  But I’ll believe you, and not just that, root for it, since I love the service and some people there, and want it to succeed.

    4. ShanaC

      maybe we should be looking for a mixture of very positive and very negative feedback.  Sort of like art – you want a reaction, you want to be remembered, and then you want to make them stick

  10. Dave Pinsen

    This seems like an example of sample bias. Plenty of companies have been mocked and gone on to fail, such as, or your one-time portfolio company

    1. gorbachev as well.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Sure. Another on a long list.

      2. ShanaC

        I’m not sure.  net-a-porter and gilt groupe are both decedents of

    2. laurie kalmanson

      I miss Kozmo.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Have you tried Task Rabbit? Not a delivery service, per se, but I think you can use it to hire people go fetch stuff for you too.

        1. laurie kalmanson

          good thought. the thing i loved about kozmo — along with the insane amounts of swag — was that it was so brand spanking new at the time. you can use the internet to order stuff and have people bring it to you almost immediately!

      2. markslater

        its been re-bornits now called zaarly, or taskrabbit – except its built on ruby which means it will ofcourse succeed.

        1. ShanaC

          oh the jokes involved in that comment

        2. Dave Pinsen

          A little different biz model though, no? As I understand it (and please correct me if I’m wrong): – Kozmo: “I want a pack of gum”. Kozmo burns money sending one of its employees to bring me gum. – Task Rabbit: “I want a pack of gum”. Task Rabbit connects me with broke person willing to bring me pack of gum and takes a vig off of the transaction. 

          1. markslater

            i was being a bit tongue in cheek dave….you are correct – they are early players in this collaborative consumption space. this space will be extremely disruptive – we are seeing point solutions that are disrupting industries everywhere using collab consumption (realy rides, cherry, airbnb, and on and on….)

          2. Dave Pinsen

            That model has its challenges too, e.g., the prospect of buyers and sellers cutting out the middleman on subsequent transactions.

        3. laurie kalmanson


      3. Dave Pinsen

        I miss the sense of optimism of the late ’90s. Back then, it was broad-based, and there was a hope (however false) that a wider swath of average Americans might benefit financially from the dot-com boom, or its echoes. Today, a relatively tiny group of entrepreneurs and investors is partying like it’s 1999, and the mood for most of country is pretty grim.

        1. laurie kalmanson

          it’s like you took those thoughts from my powerbook

        2. markslater

          i completely agree dave. wall street has not sold to main street this time. 

    3. Ed Freyfogle

      Mockery is nice, good execution is better

    4. fredwilson

      i should have qualified it by some measure of initial successbut kozmo was successful in NYC and Bostonthe mistake was opening in 18 markets at the same timethey never recovered from that mistake

      1. markslater

        yes it was – i used it here – it was great. What was their competitor? i cant recall the name

        1. David Singer

          Urbanfetch, for a short while.

      2. Dave Pinsen

        It would be interesting to see you flesh that out in a post sometime. I can’t imagine how delivering packs of gum could ever be profitable, even without the expansion.

        1. Stu

          I believe porn was their primary revenue center.

          1. markslater

            DVDs – thats how it started – home delivery of DVDs

        2. fredwilson

          it was. the NYC and Boston markets made positive margins

  11. MogulAzam

    Even by the best VCs some of the biggest wins are missed in early stages. Also time is a great equalizer as adoption occurs overtime. Then there is the timing issue that is involved that the market needs to be ready.

  12. kirklove

    I agree with the premise and your examples. I also feel it’s a bit revisionist and for every one misunderstood thing that goes on to be big, there are 100 misunderstood things that were just bad. Much like investing itself I would presume from our conversations.

    1. fredwilson

      right. there needs to be a second filter. maybe initial traction is the other filter

      1. JamesHRH

        Core attribute impact is second filter. Adoption is third.With Twitter, following someone is something people have always wanted, that they could not get ( credit Paul Graham on that description).That’s why impact of Path & Tumblr is so dramatically lower than Fb & Twitter: the initial ability is way more valuable than the same attribute done as a kick tail mobile experience.First broadly accepted beats better later.

        1. fredwilson

          i am not sure why you lump tumblr in with path James…

          1. JamesHRH

            I see it as rich media Twitter.I have a poor Tumblr experience.I have trouble discovering new people.The people I follow ( only a few ) are not using Tumblr for self expression via art.I get it sits between Twit, Fb & blogs, but I don’t see the core attribute

          2. fredwilson

            that’s good feedback. thanks

          3. JamesHRH

            Twit = follow.On the macro positioning logic side, any service that ‘follows’ is derivative and is unlikely to be as impactful. But, that’s not a strong opinion, based on my weak ‘get’ of Tumblr.

  13. Ivan Kuo

    The artform is being able to distinguish those ideas that are rightfully being filtered (out) by the crowd from those that are disruptive enough to earn its scorn.Maybe there’s a way to test this theory and use crowd “contempt” as a marker for great ideas?

    1. testtest

      i’ve seen some of your ideas scorned, Gabe.i like your thinking on gamification though. 

  14. mdudas

    I doubt that a startup being “mocked and misunderstood” by itself correlates to huge breakout successes. I would imagine that it’s something closer to “used fervently by a small but growing base of users while being mocked and misunderstood by the population at large”. Even during the “mocked and misunderstood” stage that Kickstarter is in right now, the news coverage is generally neutral to positive and curious, while the blogging coverage is hugely positive – see Google News for mainstream news: and Techmeme for blog-skewed coverage:…

    1. fredwilson

      yup. that’s the flaw in the post. it needs to be both for sure.



        1. giffc

          Lol that’s an awesome quote

        2. Paul Sullivan

          Not sure FG. Sometimes I think the difference is timing 😉

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


    2. Create a New Lab

      “STOP CENSORSHIP”I agree 110% 🙂

  15. Brandon Marker

    We are in the crowdfunding space (first to ever do equity years ago) and are mocked frequently. There are friends and contacts who respect me but have spoken out against what I am doing. They have belittled it and said some nasty things with hardly any research. We keep trucking along and creating as much momentum as possible to finally squash these non-believers and all of the ridicule. I really enjoyed this post and find it extremely relevant to so many areas. Next time I get one of those negative views I will be thinking about this one. Thanks, Fred.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks Brandon

  16. awaldstein

    Embracing what is new and misunderstood is a great way to discover the future.Take a walk through the LES or East Village or Williamsburg and you will see the shadows of the future for fashion, art and food.On the web, it’s similar except it’s new social behaviors that point the way.My only rule is to follow what feels right. And ignore the naysayers.

    1. jason wright

      William Gibson – “The future is already here, but it’s not yet evenly distributed”.This means that the future is at present concentrated in the realm of the few. Only further  discovery will distribute it to the many. Sounds like a web startup.

      1. awaldstein

        Thanks…I wanted to attribute that quote a number of times.The difference of course that oft times the future is simply a behavior looking for a platform. It’s a drive looking for language of expression.

  17. charlieok

    “Don’t do the obvious thing”…except that twitter’s parent company, Obvious, did the Obvious thing 🙂

  18. jstylman

    Interesting theory, Fred.  Seems like it’s suited you well…It definitely took people a while to “understand” Twitter – many still haven’t. Kickstarter seems easier to comprehend, however, perhaps because the service is more straight forward.  I think this may have been a case of incomplete reporting, since two of the services key attributes were missing from the story:1) Focus on creative projects: Williams’ comment made it seem like project owners were begging for money, which loyal users and people following the company realize, couldn’t be further from the truth.  It says on the homepage “A New Way to Fund & Follow Creativity” and that’s what the site is about: makers (note: the segue to the people who raised money on IndieGoGo for In Vitro probably didn’t help the overall perception, especially since I assume Kickstarter would not have accepted that project).  I imagine people likely back projects because something about the idea/creator/narrative appealed to them on a human, artistic or even commercial level (see #2, below) and they want to help see it get completed.  2) Rewards: again, people panhandling don’t typically give anything in return.  I was sure the reporter was going to reply to Williams remark by suggesting that backers get something of value – besides satisfaction – in return for their contribution.  The patronage model is one of the most fascinating things about Kickstarter.  Some people back projects because they want to “own” the creation (Tik Tok), while others may just like to receive a token of appreciation once it’s been completed.  I know when I get a reward in the mail it’s always incredibly satisfying because I feel like in my own little way, I was a part of the creation of something new. I suspect I’m not the only one who feels that way.  Like Twitter, this has the possibility to be bigger than “just” a website.  While overlooked on NBC last night, I think these two elements are what makes Kickstarter such a fascinating new social/economic paradigm.  Overall, the piece was good and will hopefully bring more awareness about Kickstarter to the masses – even there’s some mocking & misunderstanding along the way.

    1. fredwilson

      yup. i thought the piece was largely gooduntil they strayed via indiegogo into getting money for an in-vitrothat’s when i started to cringe

  19. Kavan Seggie

    It is the fine grey area between genius and crazy. In order for a product to fall into this category it needs to be non-obvious, and so there is always less understanding around these businesses. There is also less competition and thus potentially a big unexplored business model.The challenge for us as entrepreneurs is to find these grey ideas and then pick the ‘genius’ ones. Having people think we are crazy gives us time to develop, test and realise our product visions. IMHO these are typically not the piles of entrepreneurs developing X for Y (currenlty X==photo app, Y==iOS).The difficulty for us is to make sure we have picked something that is genius rather than something that is crazy. And then having the resolve to see the product through to reality.

  20. William Mougayar

    “You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’”I rest my case. 

    1. JamesHRH

      I always disliked that quote………the first thing any good idea person does is ask that question.Only to find out that the idea is not that good ( ‘why not?’ usually as some bad outcomes! ).Pet peeve.

      1. William Mougayar

        Tongue and cheek…you know what I meant :)The visionaries see things that others don’t, or they see them much earlier. In the meantime, they are misunderstood.

  21. Conrad Ross Schulman

    Funny story…I tell some1 about a new service called getglue , their first reaction is ‘Ughhh, totally not for me”Then I’m at a party and I happened to over-hear that same person reccomending getglue to someone completely different…NOT COOLThey mock you in the beginning only because you found it first 🙂

  22. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    There is a thin line between genius and madness. That thin line is… successfully proving not mad OR Success itself. Most of the geniuses were called mad until proven right. There are some rare proof came after their death.Once proven successful you can have mad-ideas and people will probably ignore that as a ‘one of those half-thought ideas from him/her’.Be mad and Be Genius … no problem with that… But as a first time entrepreneur be careful my dear friends. Be warned and Be very WARNED.Be careful when you walk on that thin rope. Stay focused… keep your eyes and ears open. Listen to every critic and ridicules and praises … and be balanced. Don’t keep following your madness … there is a very little chance if everyone is ridiculing about you/your idea. Make sure you have a good backing-up for your madness :-).People quote Gandhi … but Gandhi had a big and a very big backing-up.STATUARY WARNING: Fred is a successful investor 🙂

  23. William Mougayar

    Reminded me of My Cousin Vinnie when the judge asks Vinnie “Are you mocking me”. Judge: Mr. Gambini?Vinny: Yes Judge!Judge: Are you mocking me with that outfit?Vinny: Mocking you? No Judge I’m not mocking you.Judge: Then explain that out-fit?Vinny: I bought a new suit, you’ve seen it and now its covered in mud. So I had to get a new suit. And the only place in town where you can a new suit is closed for flu. Yeah, the whole store got the flu! So I had to buy this at a secondhand store. So its either the leather jacket which I know you hate or this! So I wore this, ridiculous thing for you!

  24. Siminoff

    This was just a awesome post. You know my feelings on Kickstarter and when I saw Brian say that last night I had the same feeling.

  25. Brian Manning

    I read a quote recently from the President of Brazil that stuck with me: “I have found out something amazing: the success of an elected official is in the art of doing what is obvious.”Interesting contrast with Fred’s post.  Perhaps success in politics is about doing the obvious (minimizing risk) while success in business is about doing what is not (disruption).Neither is easy to do.

    1. Flavio

      Lula is not the president of Brazil anymore. It is Dilma, his successor:…

    2. JamesHRH

      Peter Fenton of Benchmark says ‘I am in the business of seeing around the corner’.That’s a good VC job description.Almost everyone ignores market readiness when looking at startups. They also focus on individual winners ( companies or market categories ). Seeing around the corner requires an understanding of recent & existing winners, in order to see the pattern that shows you the disruptor around the corner.As Mark Cuban said (paraphrasing wildly here): ‘ I had seen the PC bubble; I had been in the LAN bubble; when the Internet came along, I knew the bubble would be huge.’That’s the depth of understanding that makes the ‘non-obvious’ also the impactful.

  26. kenberger

    The expression “THEY LAUGHED AT EDISON” comes to mind.

  27. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Amen!Best wishes for 2012, one and all – may your success be whatever you wish it to be!

    1. ShanaC

      to you as well

    2. Rohan

      3 days to go egoboss.What’s with the hurry? 😉

  28. testtest

    understood by everyone == wrong side of history

  29. markslater

    i openly mocked twitter here. I’ve come to use it really as a news stream – its has immense value for me in this form. (its my news feed for those 5 minute transition times during my day. its irrelevant to be wrong – its important to be able to admit when you are!

    1. fredwilson

      like i am doing in the commentsthe post has some flaws in it and i have to admit that

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Oh, but, Fred, your exuberance is charming.  And you start such great conversations!  It is refreshing to have so many who agree with you much of the time to have an opportunity to take you to task occasionally.Basically, you are saying “Here’s to the crazy ones…” and there is something inspiring about that in a community where many of us are just a bit crazy.  Some of us less crazy … or more so… than others.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Driving down the NJ Turnpike last week, I saw a huge plume of smoke. No mention of it on the radio, or on major news sites. I Snapped a pic of it and tweeted it. Just a tiny example of how info (in this case, about a huge fire) gets on twitter before it’s news. Pretty cool.

  30. Aaron Klein

    I think being mocked and misunderstood is simply an indicator that you’re fishing in a “blue ocean.” I dig it when competitors say “there are no fish over there” and I’m already finding them.Sure, you can misinterpret the signal and be in an ocean with no fish but great entrepreneurs can smell the signal in the noise.

  31. matthughes

    It’s really tough to think of a real juggernaut that didn’t take their lumps on the way up…I can’t think of one.

  32. JimHirshfield

    This post reminds me of the Steve Jobs quote: “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”People don’t know what they want until they see it. And they’re really bad at seeing the future, so they mock early iterations of the future.Five years ago a highly educated scientist asked me “why would anyone ever want a camera in a phone?!! It’s a phone for calling people, not a camera “.

  33. EmilSt

    Kickstarter is the greatest company I know. They are leveraging the wisdom of crowds in funding Art and creative projects.Instead of dependence from someone like the Pope or Medici’s 500 years ago, or Rockefellers or Rothshild’s 100 years ago, now the power of funding Art has shifted in the hands of all consuming Art. Thanks to Internet and platforms like Kickstarter.

    1. andyidsinga

      thats a great point about the medici’s. my wife any i have been watching a pbs series about the renaissance. What’s amazing is how the imagery in the series of a bustling florence art scene is analogous to what you see if you browse around kickstarter for a morning 🙂

      1. EmilSt

        The Internet is the new renaissance. For everything. I’m so excited that we are living this times.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Good word, Emil.

      1. EmilSt

        Thanks, Donna.

  34. Alan Mendelevich

    Looks applicable to what Robert Scoble and MG Siegler had to say about Windows Phone yesterday ;)…

  35. Irving Fain

    Seems like others have made the point which I also agree with that traction (to some extent) is a critical variable as there are countless services mocked each day that don’t ever get much further than out of the gate.That said, it’s nice to hear this sentiment as it can be demoralizing and discouraging to be misunderstood when, as an entrepreneur, you pour your heart and soul into your business each and every day.Thanks for writing as always!

    1. fredwilson


  36. gregorylent

    mainstream media should never be listened to, or respected.  they are for-profit businesses peddling a product. truth has nothing to do with the industry.

    1. jason wright

      Never a truer word said.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Oh boy! Well said.

    3. Otto

      Starbucks baristas provide a more useful service than most mainstream journos and talking heads. Now those of you in the mainstream media who are reading this, get back to work and go brew me some cheap infotainment.

    4. William Mougayar

      aka the demise of mainstream media. they are totally driven by maximizing the number of soundbites per seconds to keep the consumer’s attention. as for substance, that’s not one of their goals. very few media outlets are doing a good job with investigative journalism that’s coupled with a good analysis. 



        1. William Mougayar

          True. But there is entertainment value I think. Some people want a light dose of news without anything heavy. They do a good job at dumbing things down for the average person.

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


      2. Rob Hunter

        I don’t disagree, but I think that the question ought to be what can be done to have “real” media.  I’d argue that the problem (in many cases) is over optimization – “number of soundbites per second to keep the consumer’s attention”.  If you’re maximizing for time on site, I think that you’re doing it wrong – it strikes me as the difference between 3 month boardroom-vision and 5 to 10 year vision.What does one do as a good investigative journalism outlet to be successful against the maximizers?  How do we as consumers reward and keep that behavior?

    5. Augurae

      Not that you said the basic truth, I’m gonna go further.What most people refer to as “mainstream” media are not the poor over solicited journals or TV news reports that just focus on cheap recollection of the AFP or Reuters.They do have writers, columnists or PRs and their intentions / actions is way worse than just making profit: they are the main tool for propaganda, whether capitalistic, politic, xenophobic etc…If a dictator was to choose one and only one weapon in his one hand to accompany the gun in the other one, it would always be the media. North Korea, the Third Reich, the Staline Soviet Union…the way the manage to kill millions of people, get rid of most freedom of speech and being, while making a whole country work for war is only by using medias…So yes, we should never listen or respect mainstream media…we should get rid of them

  37. gregorylent

    and btw, twitter is STILL beng mocked .. 🙂

    1. andyidsinga

      and so are blogs and bloggers …in fact even this one! go figure.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      That’s why after all this time and success some of us still think of Twitter as our powerful little secret.

    3. fredwilson


  38. Alex Murphy

    I love these stories Fred.  Geniuses are generally idiots until everyone can finally see what has always been there. The point about the media not getting it made me think of this little blast from the past.  How do you say an email address from the Today show back in ’94.… 

  39. kidmercury

    lol this is the best news i’ve ever heard. by the “mocked and misunderstood” measure i’m going to be wildly successful!!! lol

    1. Donna Brewington White

      You probably will, Kid.  But hire someone else to do PR — hehe.BTW, what happened to Fredsquare?

      1. fredwilson

        fredsquare is done. we will be unveiling it to the AVC community soon.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Yay!  Can’t wait!

        2. William Mougayar


    2. Otto

      Yes, me too. And I ought to know because I have only six Twitter followers and two are twitbots, another is a “real girl”. Really, my best friend is Tom from MySpace.



      1. another cultural landslide

        Bingo. A new motto is born.

      2. panterosa,

        i had some puffed up academic department head/major scientific author rip me a new one over the phone and we had not even met. i had no idea one could be so vituperative to strangers.i guess he’s scared he’ll have to compete with me for NSF funding. it was like an inverted stamp of validation.the people who hate my work the most, and trash me for it, always give me amazing inspiration. and the higher up the pecking order the better.

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


  40. Moschops

    Cat Sandwiches. That’s ridiculous – and thus a billion-dollar idea!

  41. Austin Clements

    In NYU professor Luke Williams book ‘Disrupt’ he actually begins the practice of disruptive thinking by creating a hypothesis that would appear absurd to most. Challenging conventional wisom and common clichés is the only way to really build a breakout business.Don’t build a better mousetrap, find a better way to catch the mouse.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I guess this is a new twist on a “common cliche” — like it.  Better yet, find a better way to eliminate your rodent problem.  BTW, what you shared from Williams’ book is very intriguing.On the subject of rodents, my son’s new school, in a camp-like setting, that is committed to ecological sustainability, has eliminated its rodent problem by becoming the home to two falcons and several owls.  I wonder what we can learn from this.  Could it be that sometimes innovative ideas can be simple ideas?

      1. panterosa,

        build a bat house if you have mosquitos

    2. panterosa,

      hang out with more mice….

  42. andyidsinga

    ‘and he said something like “so this is like the guy on the street asking for a handout?”‘it always gets my blood boiling when i hear people diss others like that …ive seen some pretty damn good street artists & musicians “asking for handouts”.

    1. Otto

      Some spangers pull in a good haul, then get picked up by a nice lady in a Escalade. Total fraud and cynical street theater. Kickstarter’s are building a product or service and I wish more people were like them.

      1. andyidsinga

        I would love for more artists and makers to use kickstarter – no doubt.but when i see or hear something i think is cool or skillful and drop off a buck i generally dont care what they drive or who picks them up.

        1. Otto

          I didn’t mean street performers who actually have a skill. Here in the Portland, OR area “spangers” are not street performers but non-skilled people who hang around the light rail station and ask for “spare change”. Out in the PDX suburbs they pose as homeless people and position themselves by freeway entrances and hold up signs like, “Homeless vet. Please help.” Same people have been doing it for years and they get picked up by a lady in a nice SUV. “Rumor” is they haul up to $1000/day. This is what I was referring to. Sorry, should have more clear the first time.

          1. andyidsinga

            ah ok now i know what you’re talking about ….i live here in pdx too – shout out to NE! ;)hey, have you ever seen the guys downtown near pioneer square playing percussion on plastic buckets and what not? that is sweet 🙂

          2. Otto

            Yes. I’ve seen them outside Jeld-Wen Field before and after a Timbers match too. They can play. RCTID!

  43. ZekeV

    This is another way of describing successful contrarianism. If I may put words in your mouth, I’d paraphrase by saying Fred Wilson likes opportunities that he finds compelling but that draw scorn from others. Is that fair? I can think of many reasons that this dynamic of asymmetric expectations would be desirable for someone who trusts his own instincts.

  44. Khoi

    I like this idea, and I like that it’s a corollary of Clay Christensen’s notion that disruptive ideas start out looking like toys. Both concepts remind us that it’s very hard to see and understand change as it’s happening.

  45. Josh Miller (Roundtable)

    What if it’s misunderstood by you? 😉

    1. fredwilson

      then i miss out but it is still a positive indicator

  46. Druce

    Made me think about Conan mocking the Fire ……I only played with one briefly, definitely lacking the Apple polish, but pretty cool, and hey, $199! If I had spent twice as much for an iPad I might be receptive to reasons why it’s a terrible device. So it is with Kickstarter, one has to look at whether there is something unappealing in the idea, or some people are not happy with what it tells them about themselves, ie that people could follow dreams instead of corporate jobs.In investing, doing the same thing everyone else does isn’t what leads to good results. The best trade is usually the one that feels awful, buying when everyone is selling … but sometimes it’s the one where everyone is buying because it’s so obvious, and you feel like it might be too late, too high priced but have to race to catch the train before it leaves the station. It takes a sixth sense to tell the difference.I believe Carl Sagan said: “They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

    1. Otto

      But Bozo wanted to be laughed at and he’s probably remembered more fondly than Columbus.

  47. Andy

    This speaks exactly to the failure of tech startups that do not understand the importance of Marketing …. they end up remaining niche players when put in the grand perspective of the entire populous being their potential audience …..  go back and re-read all the comments you received on your earlier post about marketing ….this type of stuff should be a wake up call – not a rallying call that your startup is a success

    1. fredwilson

      twitter still is trying to understand marketing.

  48. Scott Belsky

    The tricky-yet-important message here for entrepreneurs is that we must know when (and when not) to gain confidence from being doubted. Criticism is valuable, but not when it is akin to xenophobia. When investors – and the general public – shun something simply because it is foreign and new…well, you’re thinking ahead. Transformational businesses are like puzzles, and it’s very difficult for the masses to see the whole picture when half the pieces are still missing. Hence the promise of being mocked or misunderstood.Entrepreneurs should embrace feedback and develop an instinct for the difference between thoughtful insights and shortsightedness. More importantly, we must learn to withstand momentary scrutiny in exchange for long-term victory.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I recently quoted a fellow AVC’er:  Feedback is the food of champions.  It takes practice  to learn to distinguish between “thoughtful insights and shortsightedness” but to discard feedback without gaining something from it is a missed opportunity.   Even when it hurts.  I am not a fan of pain, but I like to get the better of it when I can. I learn a lot from the executives I interview (as job candidates) — one of the standard questions is about how they respond to criticism.  I’ve been inspired and challenged by  comments on how there can be a valuable kernel of truth in even the seemingly most unfair criticism.  Some talk about getting at that kernel and discarding the rest.  Not always this exact phrasing, but same concept. BTW, I always ask for examples.  So easy to philosophize around this topic.

  49. Mark

    The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.-Oscar Wilde…Is it possible that we are filling the needs of others as much as our own? Or is something different happening here?

  50. Sasha Chh

    “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you.” -Nicholas Klein

  51. Dave W Baldwin

    Very good post!  I’ll borrow from it this Spring when I’m asked to do a ‘view of the future’ special presentation.

  52. Gary Sharma

    I would argue that pizza and pita can have more substance than politics 😉 

    1. fredwilson


  53. Martyisaac

    You know, I happened to see that program too.  Actually, what bothered me more was what the reporter said at the very end.  She mentioned that there was no way of knowing whether your money was going to be put to its intended use, or not.  That was pretty amazing that she just through this out there and did not let the company respond.  Frankly, I do not know the answer to this — I would be pretty shocked if the system did not protect this aspect of the the fundraising — but I thought it was pretty outrageous this was tossed out as an afterthought without the company able to respond. 

    1. Oluseyi

      The system does not completely protect that aspect of the fundraising. The Tech-Sync Power System Is a canceled Kickstarter project that’s had raised over $2,000 when backers started to get suspicious dupe to the lack of substantive updates – no video of the system working, etc. As the complaints increased, the project founder suddenly canceled the project. There’s no telling exactly how things could have turned out.Then again, not every artist the Medicis patronized delivered.The Verge did an excellent piece on Kickstarter on December 20 that I highly recommend; among the aspects it covered was the fact that fulfillment is often far more challenging than project founders anticipate, with delays running as long as 11 months. That takes a fair amount of faith on the parts of the backers. There’s no completely eliminating risk from the equation.

  54. jason wright

    Do other VCs typically subscribe to this view?

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t know

      1. jason wright

        Do VCs tend to plow their lone furrow? Is there much of a ‘community’, or is it submarine strategy (run silent, run deep)?.From the outside it seems schizophrenic.

  55. Jon Olick

    If everybody knew it was the right idea, everybody would be doing it.

  56. Economist

    Hmmm… were eBay, Paypal, Apple, Google, Oracle particularly mocked or misunderstood?  I would say for the most part, no.

    1. kidmercury

      google absolutely was mocked. though it is obvious now that search is a huge money maker, pre-google, many believed search could not effectively be monetized: what kind of business was built around the notion of sending users away as fast as possible? CPC-based text ads were thought to be a stupid idea; banner ads were king. of course now we know quite different. i’m sure the others have similar stories. personal computer in 1976? selling used stuff from your basement that no one can see or touch when no one knows you? those ideas still sound worthy of being mocked to me…..and so unsurprisingly they’re billion dollar businesses.  #fs

      1. JamesHRH

        Nicely laid out Kid.Oracle, I believe, was mocked for the core concept & only selling DBs.Against the grain, for sure.

    2. Alex Murphy

      ebay was passed off as not that important early on in their quest to create the perfect store.Paypal was dissed by many …Apple, really, are you really asking if apple was mocked?  Google and Oracle less so, but I am sure they had their detractors, they still do.We just don’t think of these companies that way today because they “made it.”

      1. jason wright

        Yahoo made it.Digital Darwinism is cannibalistic. The children eat the parents. 

      2. Economist

        no successful company or person has gone without being mocked.  but i’d say the level of mockery thrown at ebay/google/oracle is dwarfed by that thrown at twitter.

        1. Alex Murphy

          I can’t disagree with that.But, I have a good story on mockery …You probably have not heard of Control Video Corp.  It was a company in the 80s that was started by a visionary founder.  Crazy concept.  Connect to a central computer through your phone, play games, meet people.  Mocked locally in DC (maybe not as much as Twitter considering the reach, but mocked at a different level), it didn’t even make it to the national scene in the early days.  In ’85, Jim Kimsey became CEO and from ’85 to ’89, the company reinvented itself several times before becoming America Online.AOL did pivot before pivoting was the cool thing to do.  They survived the mockery and rose to create an incredible company that was the backbone for the early days of consumer internet and was the place where many of the greatest web titans started or sold their businesses from.  From my point of view, the moral of the story that Fred is sharing here is don’t be discouraged if you are being mocked.  Many of the greatest companies were mocked and it is not a signal of what is or is not great.  Let it roll off your back and keep working on making your business awesome!



    4. fredwilson

      yup. they were all mocked. particularly the first three

  57. diymanik

    He who laughs last laughs best

  58. hypermark

    Fred’s counter to the comment-stream should be that the fact that he is being Mocked and Misunderstood is a ‘tell’ that he’s on to something. ;-)Seriously, there’s both real truth (game changer’s are often easy to dismiss because they don’t fit the sound bite AND they buck conventional wisdom), and a case discombobulating correlation with causality. It’s very KOAN-esque.

  59. Peter Sullivan

    There will always be haters… even when the company is successful not even before hand. People just love to hate. I hear people hating on Facebook but still use it everyday. People hate the idea of online dating yet are secretly creating accounts. People hating just means your are striking a big enough nerve that they know there is something there, but they feel better putting it down. Later on those same people will be picking it up.  

  60. Otto

    People who stick their necks out with mocked and misunderstood ideas help move things along, even if they fail. Take 10 start ups, it’s difficult if not impossible to accurately predict which of those ten will blossom into mega success stories and which will either stagnate into “nice feature” or be forgotten. You can make educated guesses and maybe you’ll get a couple right, but if everyone knew the future everyone would be wealthy. I think the best you can do is see trends coming and go from there, do your best to build a good product, and present it. If it flies, take the ride and work hard to raise it to maturity. If not or if you’re out-competed, learn from it and try again with something else. I wouldn’t sell small niche oriented start-ups short either, success or fail, regardless of tech savvy or style points. Without them, the Internet would be a small place.

  61. John Clyman

    I suspect this is an example of a deep truth: Great products are often polarizing. Appeal to everyone’s tastes and you end up with vanilla. Yet many people are inclined to denigrate that which they don’t personally appreciate.Almost by definition, disruptive technologies will be ones that don’t make sense through the lens of conventional wisdom. People who don’t get the essence will draw poor analogies. The electric light isn’t just a better candle, and the Internet isn’t just an “information superhighway”.(As others have pointed out, being mocked is obviously not a *sufficient* condition for success — there still has to be some fundamental “there” there.)

  62. glodime

    “how do you know which companies and services are going to be the biggest successes?”No one does.

    1. fredwilson

      it is my business to try. so try i do.

      1. glodime

        Ah. But do you imply that you can do more than improve the odds that you are correct through research (broadly defined)? Do you have empirical evidence that this is possible and that you are capable which you share to demonstrate such? Or do you act as a glorified palm reader? I think the distinction is important, but often advantageously glossed over by people “in the business”.I’m not implying anything about you, just the VC environment as a whole. But I would be interested to know how you personally answer these questions.

        1. fredwilson

          I am not a huge fan of research. I prefer engaging deeply. This blog and this community are a huge part of my strategy. Our returns since starting USV in 2003 have been exceptional but past performance is no guarantee of future performance

          1. glodime

             Research, broadly defined, includes anything you use to gain insight towards your goal of increasing your odds of being correct. So I would consider deep engagement and this blog to be research, i.e. you are big on research. Otherwise you’d be throwing darts and rolling dice.”Our returns since starting USV in 2003 have been exceptional”You must admit that this is a meaningless statement without context as you provided it. Keep in mind: a) anyone that has above market returns for 3 years in a row has not demonstrated anything more than being lucky.b) large returns early on can obscure subsquent sub-par performance for an etended period (exceeding 10 years in some cases)c) anyone can increase returns in any year by increasing risk through financial levereage.Don’t be a palm reader to your clients, justifiy your value.

  63. Jason Baudendistel

    It is about creating a product or service you know is great and obbsessively telling everyone you can while postioning yourself.

  64. Lee Blaylock

    I worked for Michael Dell from 1988 to 1995 (badge #244) and he told me to “always question conventional wisdom, b/c therein provides the opportunity.”  The month I started Newsweek ran an article calling Michael L’ Enfant Terrible and that the customized manufacturing model won’t take them past $250mm in annual sales.  HA! 

  65. ahumancapitalist

    For those who don’t read The Big Picture, Barry Ritholtz had a great infographic on crowdfunding platforms today:…It shows that 69% of the social media buzz for crowdfunding is on Twitter, not Facebook.  Which is right b/c Twitter is about ideas, as is VC.  And crowdfunding is micro-VC, focused on products with low operational risk to build.

    1. fredwilson

      wow. thanks for sharing that. the rise of crowdfunding is becoming a megatrend

  66. jer979

    I love this. Seth Godin. We are all weird, eh?

  67. ahumancapitalist

    PS: Another wonderful infographic from AddThis shows 52% of sharing in Japan is on Twitter.…  If Japan is the tech bellwether it often is, there should still be more good growth for Twitter.

  68. Dmitry Shapiro

    Politics and Poetry are some of the most popular topics on Anybeat, and people are constantly mocking us, saying that the world does not need another social network.  Others though are saying that we are a “Better Twitter”.  Not sure who is right 🙂

  69. John Revay

    Re: Rock Center – Too bad – I very much like Brian Williams…and for that matter the NBC news brand.  It sounds like the piece had the wrong conclusion…and for that – I would point some blame to the ProducerRe: The Point of Fred’s Post – I think Rohan’s comment was the most on point – re: Context is everything..Re: Kickstarter – Even bad PR is good PR

  70. Jarrod

    What about Color?

    1. Alex Murphy

      while many that are successful were mocked, many that are mocked are not successful.

    2. JamesHRH

      They were mocked by mainstream early adopters.

  71. paramendra

    That Gandhi quote about first they ridicule you, later they join you. 

  72. Davison

    I think Google + should enable Adsense for all users and use the slogan “Monetize Your Life.” – Aimee Davison who keeps trying to popularize the term You-commerce.



  74. Rahul Deodhar

    I am sure everyone realized that Kickstarter is reducing the risk in business projects. I think Hanks said it well, the function was less raise money but more gauge interest and thus reduce risk.

    1. JamesHRH

      Tim Ferriss (four Hour Work Week) agrees. Take out risk by getting sales before committing time or capital.

  75. André DeMarre

    The best new ideas come from those who do more than look at trends. They come from those who see the trends and understand what’s still missing from the projections. “What’s in that dark space no one is looking at?” While everyone else will be trying to create products in response to market direction, the best innovators will be working to disrupt it.Your observation about the mocked and misunderstood is great because such a reaction is exactly what one should expect if his idea came from what he saw in that “dark space” on everyone else’s market projections.

  76. another cultural landslide

    Fred, thank you. After another day dealing with doubters, we needed this piece. Your timing could not have been better.And when it comes to Mainstream Media – just remember that the broadcast industry’s idea of the future is… Mobile DTV.Yup.  Local network TV on your cell phone. Same old product on a smaller screen.All while forgetting that FloTV crashed & burned less than 9 months ago.Meanwhile, The Giant Robo Dino’s Kickstarter has exceeded his goal by 609%. (Amazing.) They just won’t get it. Ever. And that’s a good thing. 😉 k&w

  77. another cultural landslide

    Great ideas are usually the ones people piss on first.

    1. Alex Murphy

      great point … the funny thing is that it works in reverse.  The ideas and “things” that people celebrate early end up being bad ideas and the dogs.

  78. Sjhfabian

    Where was Katie Couric when we need her. This Kate did not seem to assimilate the information being given. The blatant disinterest and disrespect at the very end took credibliity that had been built during the piece. No, it not the producer’s fault – it was these two. That policing comment at the end was totally out of the blue – neither of them were LISTENING!

  79. panterosa,

    I love embracing the unusual and trying the out there things….how else does one learn and explore? And I love following other who do the same. Take a risk! It fairly easy to get used to being misunderstood and underestimated when your ‘GAS meter’, as JLM calls it, is broken. Also, those who underestimate you give you amazing information about themselves, which you can hold until you need it later. If you need them at all by then….

  80. Brad Lindenberg

    I wouldn’t take much notice of those morons in the media. They remind me of the “experts” that Vinod Khosla refers to all the time. They shout from the rafters and never play the game. It’s easy to do that. You just need vocal cords, not brains, balls, conviction and courage. I think Kickstarter is incredible and it doesn’t take much to understand why. In fact I blogged about it last week and entitled the post “Disrupting Capitalism” because that is what I believe Kickstarter is doing.At the core of capitalism, finance, investing, VC etc… is fractional ownership of companies. That is fundamentally what the share-market exists to facilitate – the fractional ownership of companies. Kickstarter – in a small way, and in the future maybe in a BIG way, is actually disrupting the need for fractional ownership of new ideas by enabling inventors to bypass investors, raise funds by pre-selling product (to real customers!!), removing startup risk, staying in control, and raising capital without having to part with a fraction of their business.Its incredible. Keep it up Kickstarter. The full post is here:

    1. fredwilson

      i think kickstarter will disrupt fractional ownership to some degreebut for others, it may turn out to be just a kickstarter and they will move on to more traditional forms of financing

  81. Bryan St. John

    Spot on Fred : In the off chance you haven’t already read Howard Roark’s final speech in world’s best book “The Fountainhead”, enjoy the applicability:…

    1. fredwilson

      it’s been a while since i read thatthanks for sharing thatvery inspirational

  82. Krassen Dimitrov

    Of course! A startup will have a hard time to compete in obvious and accepted spaces… Think about it this way:  there is very low chance that a Very-Serious-Vice-President-of-Something at Large-Incumbent-Company-With-Mucho-Dineros would sign-off on something that is mocked and misunderstood.

  83. JamesHRH

    Basically…..Mainstream = tried and trueMocked and misunderstood = outside mainstreamNot outside mainstream = not mocked and misunderstood = not disruptiveThe mainstream mocks and misunderstands all things that are not mainstream. It makes the herd feels safe.I just had 3 swimming parents look at me weird last week when I injected ‘follow me on Twitter’ into a conversation. It took 10 minutes to get myself back into the herd ( and I had to answer the question ‘what do you do for a living?’ to do so ).But M&M is not a guarantee of impact…….just a sign that you are at the right starting point.

    1. fredwilson

      instead of follow me on twitter, i used to say “send follow fredwilson to 40404 via sms”that was how i got my first bunch of followers

      1. JamesHRH

        If I had said that, I don’t think they would have kept talking to me!

      2. Dorian Benkoil

        That is, in fact, a great tip. Offering the service within the existing means of communication even as you build a new platform/mode/pathway.

  84. Geoff

    By being ridiculed, they are at least not dying on the vine, that negative publicity generates some attention to the startup.

  85. Robert Hacker

    Thoughtt you might reference Clayton Christensen in this post that disruptive products are frequently considered “toys” initially. Very similar logic to your point.

    1. fredwilson

      i should havehe has influenced me greatly

  86. Douglas Crets

    I am in full agreement with you. 

  87. graubart

    It’s too bad that Kickstarter won’t accept corporate projects. I was thinking that the folks at NBC News could kick off a project that would allow the Rock Center videos to run in the Chrome browser, which they currently don’t.They’ll probably *get*  crowdfunding around the time they figure out that the world is not all running IE any more.

  88. Bret Treasure

    Thanks Fred; found that encouraging…

  89. Justin Travis

    Great points Fred. Just to dig a little deeper, I think it’s also important to realize that folks may understand the “what” and “how”. but they’ll mock and misunderstand the “why”.People understood how twitter worked and what the experience was, but they were darned if they could figure out WHY anyone would want to do such a thing. But now they understand. The early adopters prove it to the mainstream. Even Brian Williams gets that Kickstarter is folks asking for money. But he doesn’t understand WHY Kickstarter does what it does. He doesn’t know what it’s like to be an independent film producer, struggling to raise money for a film, but how that Kickstarter separates the wheat from the chaff and makes it easy.I get the same with my company. People tell me we’re crazy for going after LinkedIn. But we’re really not. The don’t get our “why”, which is to get folks out to jobs they hate and into jobs that love. And that’s an entirely new mentality, which requires an entirely new set of tools.

  90. rfairfax

    Who cares what Brian Williams, Rock Center, TechCrunch, Scoble, or any other pundit thinks? Why pay attention to them? Has Brian Williams ever launched a company, or actually created anything. He reads what other people tell him to read. The only people who matter are users and customers. If they’re delighted, if they keep coming back, if they’re getting value out of what you’re doing, then you and your company are succeeding … at least in terms of product-market fit. 

  91. ckdozi

    The impact your words can have is unimaginable.  I hardly watch tv news, most obvious the net and no tv, but nor online either. When i did I felt the newsman-of-old today didn’t fit my needs. This air of better than, or the way the Newscasters thank each other, like one is better than the other.  And, you know there is this deep throat competitiveness going on among them.  And, looking good has surpassed.  I feel the News people can deliver better information,  They’ll get all controversial on a Gossip item, but not bring this level of effectiveness to Corporations, Politics, Education.  Looking at these larger than life figures, highly intelligent, well paid, I want more from them.  It’s the election year and the same conversations are happening, reporting on the same level. I want to see the News People cause something we’ve never seen – Like the number of people who voted surpassed all records.  The news people said the same thing of the OWS conversation, which to me is a crumb of a conversation of a much bigger conversation which was shhsh’d.  If it were called Love Corporations Love Government Love Parks Love the Peoples Voice maybe it could be different.  Don’t we belittle things to feel better than.  When you think an idea, or something is being talked about it’s happening, not time to shhsh or sweep it under the rug.  Bring profound compassion, outside the box, listening each time as you don’t know what you don’t know.  I think they have done this well with food, reteaching people how to eat and prepare the food for meals.  While advertising so called food items which come in a box that is purple and Fun to eat. Oh, and the drug available to fix that.  

  92. TK

    The truly successful companies start off as a wonky toy.

  93. Eric Friedman

    The initial opposition from stories like this underscore a stronger connection with those that “get” it, almost energizing the base to do more.  I wonder if that effect can actually be plotted on the hype cycle…

  94. Alex Hammer

    Fred is brilliant.

  95. Ugo Orlando

    Yup! Doesn’t mean any mocked idea is awesome. But it shows how awesome a mocked idea can be, and that’s already a lot!

  96. Nick Tomaino

    I love this post and it reminds me of the article that surfaced last week about the advertising exec who referred to Steve Jobs as a “joker” after speaking to him on the phone-…Of course for every Apple, Twitter, and Kickstarter there are thousands of companies that are mocked and misunderstood that probably deserve to be, but your point is clear: it is important to keep an open mind and not write someone or some company off due to preconceived notions. You practice what you preach Fred, as your open blogging style and accessible nature gives everyone who has an idea a shot. It is awesome to see.

  97. Tom Labus

    MSFT.The contrarian view.   

  98. elliottng

    Great post, however:1.  It may be true that everything Big will be Mocked and Misunderstood.2.  But it is almost certainly true that everything Mocked and Misunderstood is not destined to be Big.Right?  It maybe a “Tell” for you that the ideas you think are Big that are also Mocked and Misunderstood are more likely to actually be Big than those that fail to be Mocked.  Just want to make sure that a logical fallacy doesn’t creep in.  Mocked and Misunderstood is necessary but not sufficient for success!

  99. Ryan Tanaka

    I agree for the most part, although it helps to keep in mind that there’s a few people who try to sell themselves as faux-revolutionaries by deliberately being confusing/vague.  It’s really a bizarre thing, but some people do it cause they think it makes them look “cool”.Being misunderstood is never a good thing — people succeed in spite of, not because of.  The dedication toward clarity should always be there at all times, even if people initially don’t get it.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      “The dedication toward clarity should always be there at all times…”Good word, Ryan.  

  100. John Beagle

    “Kickstarter couldn’t be farther from the “guy on the street asking for a handout”Agreed, from what I see KickStarter is like a very creative way of getting funding and in many cases, there is recognition and or reward for getting involved. What do you get when you give the guy on the street a handout? Certainly not a glass flask imported from Italy with custom seal made with wax imported from Scotland, like what you get when you pledge $25 to Booze Books. 

  101. Dorian Benkoil

    Love it. More thoughts at Essentially: There’s some traction with a new idea, but that newness leads to discomfort, which is a sign this service or product touches folks at a level that’s worth looking at.On the comments talking about the media — sure, true, but we’ve always known that. But I don’t think Fred was critiquing the media so much as using that as a proxy or representation for society, mainstream thought, at large.

  102. Dave Hendricks

    It’s hard to break out of the pack if you aren’t different.  Pretty easy conclusion to make.This reminds me of high school, college etc there were people there who were ahead of the pack, fashion-forward, whatever, and they were mocked, beaten up.  And they hung around with the geeks and artists and marginals.  But they were on to something.  And they stuck it out.  And they ignored you or the bullies.  And then 5 or 10 years later you bought their album or something from their company.  Look at Brooklyn Industries.  Etsy.  And kooky ideas like Twitter that are super simple but inspire derision, they are the best examples for sure.  Not sure who is mocking KickStarter.  Just seems like a dumb, throw away comment by an ignoramus.I’d say Icanhazcheesburger is the best example.  Who knew that cat pictures would rule the internet?  That is worthy of mockery.  I can haz huge success and mockery.

  103. Dino Dogan

    You have no idea how glad I am to hear you say this. However, some companies must be mocked and misunderstood for a reason. I guess age must have something to do with it. Young companies mocked and misunderstood = good.Established companies mocked and misunderstood = bad. Or do you disagree? 

  104. dick costolo

    Fred, remember your due diligence on FeedBurner the first time? 6 out of 6 publishers told you they’d never use it and they were all using it less than a year later? 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      i wrote a post about that. that was one of the biggest lessons i ever got in the VC business. tom evslin told me that when 6 out of 6 are negative, your are actually hearing fear. and you must invest. thankfully you let me invest once i figured that out.

  105. Carl Levinson

    So does this apply, Fred – even when you are the person mocking ?

    1. fredwilson

      yes. even more so.

  106. Brandon Mendelson

    I’m still not clear about how Kickstarter IS different from someone on the street asking for a handout?

    1. fredwilson

      there are a number of important differences but two that stand out for me are;1) you get compensation for the projects you back. often in the product that you are allowing the creator to make. think of kickstarter as a futures market2) your pledge doesn’t hit your bank account (or credit card) until the project creator hits their goal. its all or nothing.

  107. Shyam Subramanyan

    Mocking serves a very important purpose.  When mockers mock, it gets other people to think, analyze, and respond.  For example, it’s now clear to me why Kickstarter is not like someone on the street asking for a handout…thanks to Brian Williams.  It’s all part of the ecosystem!

    1. fredwilson

      good point

  108. Jeff 'SKI' Kinsey

    Good stuff Fred. I especially like what Twine is doing at this exact moment on kickstarter.

  109. Oluseyi

    Kickstarter may have been mocked on Rock Center, but it has also been the subject of at least two very positive features on the New York Times (digital edition; no idea if it made it to print). Does the model require just an isolated instance of mockery, or the more widespread sort endured by Twitter?

    1. fredwilson

      widespread is better. the more the better

      1. Oluseyi

        Gotcha. Thanks.

  110. Chris Grey

    This logic is a bit like saying lottery tickets are a great investment or becoming an actor is an awesome career choice when obviously for almost everyone involved in either of those activities it is a total waste of time and money. For every Twitter and Kickstarter, there are literally hundreds of thousands of other start ups that failed and were also mocked an misunderstood. The reasons for success in these cases are tied to having a great product that serves a big market as well as a good deal of luck. Being mocked or misunderstood is true for almost any new product or service, and more than 99.9% of the time that mocking and misunderstanding is not an indication that the product or service will succeed.

  111. LMY

    I thought the comment about “there is no one policing” this as much weirder, frankly.  Williams came in at the end and clearly didn’t spend much time as a journalist personally looking at or researching this story at all.  Kate Snow did spend time understanding Kickstarter – but she was more enamored by Tom Hanks son (who I admit – is adorable) and then her any big question was “where are the police?”  To me, that was more of a misunderstanding – from someone who should have understood the damn model!

  112. Chris Rossini

    wow…if you take this concept and apply it to the political world, it describes Ron Paul very accurately.Every mainstream media article mocks in the most extreme way possible. But what most people are missing is what’s going on underneath. There is tremendous substance beneath the nonsense that’s being reported.And while people obsess over the nonsense, he’s rising in the polls…In the first two primary states, he’s polling 1st and 2nd place respectively.Using Fred’s analogy here, something very big is happening.

  113. vadadean

    Reminds me of how Mario Livio described Galois’ plight in “The Equation That Could Not Be Solved”:New ideas are judged by old knowledge.

  114. Justin Yuen

    Love this post, Fred. I think for folks trying to figure out how to achieve success, it’s key to examine why a company or service might get mocked, and how being mocked can help them achieve massive success: Why they might get mocked – addictive functionality that generates powerful user adoption by satisfying a viral need from early adopters through a simple user experience.How being mocked can help achieve success – after the technorati buzz about the company or service, mainstream media begins to pick up on it by running stories using the “tech trend-look how crazy these people are-we don’t understand why they’re like this but it makes us feel superior” template approach. This fuels other news outlets and mainstream blogs to write about the phenomenon, further publicizing the company/service so that it can raise awareness and entice mainstream users to try it out. This last step is crucial for a tech startup to achieve widespread success – the early adopter folks alone can’t help the company/service cross the chasm.The moral of the story? Focus on the simplicity, utility, and addictiveness of the user experience, build a fervent and focused early adopter user base, leverage them to generate media attention that mocks their “web crazy addiction,” and then enjoy massive mainstream success =)

  115. Dan Sweet

    Fred, same could be/has been said about your blog.  I’ve gotten similar reactions upon describing your blog to others.  “So why would he just give all that information away?”  “That’s crazy.”  “What is his real motive?”  Totally agree that, in these cases, people not getting it absolutely means you are on to something big!

    1. fredwilson

      give it, give it away, give it away now!that’s my motto

  116. Albert Hartman

    Angel & micro-VC wasn’t taken seriously at first either, until traditional VC found their dealflow impacted (seed/A rounds sniped). This was enabled by technology making it so that new companies needed far less money to start, in the range achievable by private angels. The logical next step was to scale up deal volume (ex: Ycombinators). Now even mainstream VCs have a seed arm. Kickstarter is just playing in the $10K-$100K range right now, so it is not yet disrupting any traditional funders dealflow – it’s therefore safe for the mainstream to mock. If/when crowdfunding steps up to $100K-$1M+ range it will blast a hole in the traditional startup funding scene.

  117. ParkerSmith91

    my roomate’s mother-in-law makes $77/hr on the laptop. She has been without a job for 8 months but last month her pay was $7111 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Here’s the site to read more… </i<a>

  118. Karan

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win –  I am guessing thats what you are refering to.Big success comes when you are ahead of your time and come up with a vision that is not main stream – and there lies the challenge, no one can hear you becuase there is no traction yet, and people often can not think on their own, they need proof!!!Someone said that for an idea to go from someone’s mind to mainstream adaptation takes 150 years (its probably much faster now).I think our idea in is one of those ideas! We have been at it for ten years, and now its called curation, and it works!

  119. Luke Hristou

    Know I’m super late on this but I had recently referenced this “Mocked and Misunderstood” in a post I wrote yesterday about Online Reputation and was looking for some feedback.Someone may have already mentioned this in the comment thread, but to me Klout seems to fit this bill perfectly as being mocked and misunderstood.  With online reputation gaining in popularity with things like: people rank, collaborative consumption, online dating, etc. It seems that it’s a no brainer that klout will eventually be aligned perfectly to adapt to all of these things accordingly.There was a great post on this topic yesterday on Gigaom:… – but it was never really stated what the person writing thought would end up being the case with Klout.Wondering what you though?  Oh and here is my post if you want to check it out… 

  120. Fahim Sachedina

    Completely agree. I’m sure FB, Google etc were heavily criticised.”First they ignore you, then they fight you, then you win” 🙂

  121. King Sidharth

    By that standard, is going to be big?

  122. Dave Pinsen

    I think that ended up being one of their most valuable assets. 

  123. fredwilson

    not sure. i will try to figure it out

  124. Donna Brewington White

    Oh, Charlie, your love of justice is showing again.

  125. kirklove

    Charlie, I’m right where someone of my knowledge on the subject belongs. 😉

  126. Donna Brewington White

    Sometimes it’s the more desperate ones — the ones with fewer options but a great need — who will be the early adopters.  Desperation is relative, of course.

  127. fredwilson

    quora has a sustained/sustainable audience. check their alexa or comscore stats. it is just not as large as some thought it would be. that’s not quora’s fault.