Sixteen Years Ago

1996 was the year that my career took off, the year that NYC's startup community took off, and the year that the commercial internet took off. It was a big year and an inflection point in my life.

It was also the year that Jerry Colonna and I started Flatiron Partners. We got that firm off the ground very quickly and very unconventionally. I had been working closely with SOFTBANK Corporation of Japan on an investment in a company called FreeLoader, founded by Mark Pincus and Sunil Paul. When we sold FreeLoader, SOFTBANK approached me about joining their investment team in the US.

I convinced SOFTBANK that there was going to be a lot of Internet startup activity in NYC and that backing me and Jerry to start a firm in NYC was a good idea. Jerry thought we might be better off with two backers instead of one (he was right), and we went to Chase Bank and got them to join the project. That's how Flatiron came to be. SOFTBANK, Chase, Jerry and me were the four partners in Flatiron when we got started.

SOFTBANK was just coming onto the scene in the US. Their founder and CEO Masayoshi Son was on the cover of Business Week in the summer of 1996. That same week the SOFTBANK Ventures team in the US did an offsite in Boston. We were walking through Harvard Square coming back from dinner and we saw Masa on the cover of Business Week in the newstand in the square.

I am not sure who took this picture, but it captures all of this and more for me.

Softbank crew

From left to right, you have Rich Levandov, me, Gary Rieschel, Charley Lax (up front), Jerry Colonna (in the back), and Brad Feld.

Every one of these folks is still active in the startup world.

Rich is a managing partner at Avalon Ventures and he invested in Zynga along with me and Brad (the Pincus connection lives on). Rich is also on Reece Pacheco's board and this post came out of a convo that Reece and I had about Rich in the comments to yesterday's post.

Gary runs one of the top venture funds in China. Charley runs an early stage venture firm in Boston. Jerry is the best CEO Coach in the business. And Feld is Feld.

Relationships are the currency of business. I cherish my relationship with all of the folks I worked with back than and this picture is representative of all that. It sits on the bookshelf in my office. I showed it to Reece last night. And I'm showing it to all of you this morning.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. kirklove

    Your hair ^1000 😉

    1. fredwilson

      when my hair gets long and its humid out, anything is possible

      1. ShanaC

        now you know why your daughter chemically straightens :p

  2. RichardF

    relationships are the currency of life.

    1. Mark Essel

      you can skip currency there.

  3. John Revay

    GREAT Photo – 1,000 wordsYoung, lively, high on anticipation….the whole worlds and life in front of you.It had to be a great night and a great time in your life!Side note – Interesting comment from JLM last night …..something to the effect of trading his life experience for the youth of some in the room.

    1. reece

      so cool to meet JLM last night, and to see the impact with which he writes is even more powerful when he speaks

      1. fredwilson

        he didn’t say much last night but what he said stuck with me more than anything else said last night

        1. John Revay

          Agreeing that Jeff was quite for most of the night taking it in, while formulating his thoughtsI wish there was an audio recording of last night – I was trying to recall his bits of wisdom,5 best friends in life,Playing a round of Golf w/ someone to size them upSitting around the camp fireMaybe he can comment along the way – repeating his comments/thoughts

    2. JLM

      .When one dies — many, many long years in the future — there will be hundreds of folks at your funeral and every one of them will say — “Sammy was a friend of mine” and then some of them may well tell an anecdote about Sammy’s life and some may cite a particular characteristic.Funny thing — They will come to celebrate your life when you are dead. You have a hell of a lot more “friends” than you ever knew and you only have to die to prove it.When I speak of “friends” I am speaking of those who celebrate your lives — both of you — when you are still alive. Those who will invest energy and love weaving an unbreakable living connective tissue between your lives.People who will not weigh and measure the flow of favors and kindnesses but who act naturally at all times.I think in your life you will be well blessed if you make 5 such friendships. Hopefully one is your mate — your soul mate.Family are the people who will take you into their arms regardless of what happens — but you beat the same blood in your veins as they do. No surprise.I am talking about the people whose connection is so magical, non-judgmental, unequivocal that you do not command their attention, it is given without even being asked. And is it naturally and instinctively reciprocated.I have been blessed to have such friends. I have been such a friend.Once a great friend of mine was in a pickle. It was a pickle of his own making. He was going to lose his house. It was humiliating.I went to see him and inquired as to the magnitude of his financial problem. He told me. I had a check delivered to him to solve the problem. He asked me — why? I said because you are my friend. That explanation was more than enough because, in fact, we were that kind of friends. He knew it and accepted it for what it was.Another acquaintance of mine upon hearing of this arrangement gave me hell — saying that it was folly to “loan” him that much money and worse still to know that I had done it without even a handshake let alone a promissory note.I looked at him and said — that is what you do not understand, it was not a “loan”, it was a gift. If I were to receive the money back, that would be all the better.The guy was dumbfounded and told me I was a fool and he had never known me to be foolish. What he did not really want to say was that he knew I would never, ever have done that same thing for him, as we were not that kind of friends.The story ended as it should. I got my money back and that friend repaid me several times over by steering very profitable business in my direction on countless occasions.I felt good about myself.If you want to have such friends, you will have to be such a friend..

      1. John Revay

        Merci, I am sorry that I asked you 2X for this, I wasn’t sure if you would get through all of the comments.You are a very wise man, and you have a great gift w/ your writing skills – Thoughts> Words – so brilliantly and gracefully done

      2. William Mougayar

        “If you want to have such friends, you will have to be such a friend.” I can relate to that. Life quote.

      3. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        Yes. Yes. and YES.If you want something… you be that first.And also i agree that you cannot have more than 5-true friends… i will put it like “Naked friends” … you can be as naked as you want and still they are there for you… no masks … no politeness … no ego … no nothing … just yourself….that yes not more than 5 … i am not sure whether we can get more than 5 … if someone got it … we should consider them GOD’s gifted….Yes there are hello friends, good friends, nice friends, and NAKED FRIENDS.

      4. fredwilson

        i’ve got the soul mate. and i think i’ve got at least five others

  4. kidmercury

    man that picture was probably taken on an old school camera. like you had to buy a roll of film, put it in a camera, have the camera on you, take pictures, develop the roll, then stuff the photo in some awful looking album, never to be seen again. it’s a miracle anyone who wasn’t a pro photographer ever took a photo in the first place. terrible.

    1. RichardF

      that’s why I loved the polaroid camera, it’s not the quality though, it’s the memories that it evokes.Recently I digitised some old photos of my dad, going back 80 years, the quality is irrelevant really.

      1. Denim Smith

        You are so right @Richardf (and @kidmercury ). Richard – what did you do with the memories once you scanned them? Like Kid mentions, decades of analogue photos (memories) are tucked away in boxes/ albums collecting dust or digitized with good intentions but tucked away on CDs or hard drives at risk of bit rot, etc. and buried in digital folders.I’ve attempted to build something to liberate and rediscover and share these moments before we have the unfortunate reality of inheriting parents and grandparents memories of their lives and likely our own childhood – which is in fact the entire photographic history of most families. Today, we have the opposite challenge as we’re taking too many photos from multiple devices spread across fragmented products, services and the social web and this will only get worse in the evolution of each product and device over our lives and beyond – but we will still capture these moments and memories. There will be friction in doing this for the born-analogue crowd, but fun friction as the comments from the photo above indicate and once you’re done you’re done and all your photos can live in harmony and at your fingertips to enjoy – as they were meant to be.

        1. RichardF

          This is where google and android have been my friend.I use Picasa because I love the face recognition technology, it automatically tags people once you have set it up, which makes accessing photos filtered by people really easy. Also my photos are automatically synced across devices and my android tablet is perfect for viewing photos.We also have a couple of digital frames that pick up photos from Picasa online so that’s a great way of displaying photos too.

      2. LE

        “the quality is irrelevant really”I think about that some times when I hear a song that I really like that isn’t being played through the best speakers and still evokes emotion.

    2. ShanaC

      It wasn’t. 400 speed film tends to do well under most conditions, and a lot of color films could be developed really quickly ( but not always well).The first time you develop a picture on your own you realize you are holding a precious object of a piece of time. It is an amazing feeling getting back a roll (actually, even cooler is developing and printing your first roll) because of the relative ease and physicalness. Then you would write these notes on the back, all sorts of details. I have yet to see an analog in digital, replicating that physicalness of handling a picture.Makes me want to repair my film SLR and go back to studying the art side of photography.

    3. LE

      I did photography and had a darkroom and even rolled the film onto cartridges using a Watson film loader. It was fun and the skills I acquired (and the money since I managed to shoot in high school and college) gave me the funds to start my first business. I can’t even begin to mention all the good that came out of doing that type of photography.” it’s a miracle anyone who wasn’t a pro photographer ever took a photo in the first place”Actually it’s quite satisfying.

  5. Bala

    Classic “Relationships are the currency of business” – well said, I encourage all the entrepreneurs I work with to build strong relationships with everyone and as diverse, international and intergenerational as they get. Life is too short to think otherwise. With Startup Iceland done! we provided an opportunity for a bunch of entrepreneurs from the US, South Africa, Singapore and Iceland to connect and build relationships. Most of these entrepreneurs were Under 30. I wish I had done this when I was in my 20s. Next year for Startup Iceland our goal is to reach out to many more countries… like E20 (Entrepreneurs 20)

    1. fredwilson

      i really loved seeing Brad^2 doing the Iceland thing last week

      1. Bala

        Actually the crowd suggested that they do a road show with the title “The Brads Show!” I thought it has a ring to it

  6. John Revay

    Flatiron / Chase I once worked with a guy that was great friends w/ Jeff Walker frm Chase Capital Partners …..I recall some earnings announcements from Chase at the time…..that mentioned Chase Capital as being the big contributors to their qtrly earnings.Recently, I was talking w/ another person that worked at the same company who also knew Jeff….and some how when talking about Chase Capital this person simply mentioned Flatiron as the high flier within the Chase Portfolio.I never had the opportunity to meet Jeff.

    1. fredwilson

      Jeff is a wonderful caring person. he’s doing what he loves now. non-profits, teaching, giving back. Jerry is super close to him.

  7. Tereza

    Love the hair. The smiles, too.What never fails to surprise me about relationships is that you’re rarely if ever ‘done’. Meaning, the world changes a lot, people change, and new people constantly emerging.Last night JLM mentioned we maybe have 5 true friends in life.You’re a lucky man, Fred!

    1. RichardF

      what…you mean the 600 people I have on Facebook are not my true friends!

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        … 601 🙂

      2. Tereza

        Good God Richard and to imagine I’m not even one of them.

        1. RichardF

          I’m kidding, I barely have a fb presence. We use a family and friends blog. That way we own the content.But I do think promiscuous friending can be quite a clever strategy.

          1. ShanaC

            why is promiscuous friending a good idea?

          2. RichardF

            because it’s a good way to create a network albeit perhaps a loose one and a rolodex.

          3. Tereza

            Promiscuousness on FB indeed has been getting useful for business. Big change on that for me in last year. For family, @NateQuigley is up to something *very* interesting…..

    2. Cam MacRae

      Rockin’ the fuchsia polo too!

      1. Tereza


      2. ShanaC

        I think it is fug. Fred – you look better in blue!

        1. Cam MacRae

          what?! outrageous. my 1996 self highly approves of such clobber.

      3. jerrycolonna

        Notice MY clothing is hidden. Did I ever tell ya about these pants Fred used to wear…;)

        1. Cam MacRae

          go on… ;)(Btw, you’re in my default position for all group photographs. In the words of the Southern Sage: Well played!)

        2. fredwilson

          jordan levy has a great story about the pants i was wearing the day he met me

          1. jerrycolonna

            Well it’s damn hard for me to throw stones. I think I was wearing a ripped t-shirt and Yankees cap when we met.

    3. fredwilson

      i don’t agree with JLM on that. i think you can have more than five.

      1. ShanaC

        I agree with you, there is research that says your friend group completely changes every 7 years or so on average.I do think periods of change tend to take out a lot of your friendships and add new ones as you change. Very few friends of mine survived many transitions I’ve been through….

      2. Mark Essel

        10, 100?I have many close friends that I don’t regularly keep in touch with, but when we do get together we’re still close.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          I imagine everyone who will debate this will come from different capacities – mental capacities that is, the depth and type of connection they require, and even their ability to store all of that information and keeping it relevant.

      3. panterosa,

        I’m not sure I agree with JLM on 5 either. I’ve heard 12 true friends and the few times I counted to 12 it made sense to me.

        1. fredwilson

          12 might be closer to the truth

      4. awaldstein

        New great friendships are still ahead of us.I believe the social web and communities like this one are a large part of making that happen.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Agreed. I would have never been able to find, meet people and learn from people like you otherwise.

    4. awaldstein

      Great to see you again last night Tereza. Next time Charlie is in the city, let’s certainly get together.

    5. Aaron Klein

      One of the things I’ve learned is that different people have different definitions of the word “friend.”I have a pretty expansive definition. I’d agree with JLM that you probably can’t have more than five or six people in your inner circle at a given moment.But my life is rich because I have a couple of hundred true friends. And I continue to get proof of that every day.

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        Yes. There are hello friends, friends, true friends and the truest friend (wife)….Consider yourself lucky to have 100s of them and you are also gifted with a big heart to hold all of them.

        1. Aaron Klein

          I am incredibly lucky that my best friend is my wife. We’re different in a lot of ways, but I couldn’t ask for a better partner to do life with. I married way, way up.

          1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            same here @aaronklein:disqus I am really happy that my life partner is a lot different from me. She is very organized, plan for near-future … i totally dis-organized live in the past and distant future.But what i found as the word friendship goes is … the school and high-school time friends are more close than the later friends. We can talk to the school buddies as naked as we want … but with friends from later age … 25 or 30+ we start wearing a little mask.

      2. Tereza

        I think that’s so true, Aaron.And I think that how large and what kind of family you have significantly impacts your attitudes and need for friends. My family had been very close but when I lost them my needs vis-a-vis friends changed radically — as in, I needed them a ton more, for much of the stuff I relied on with my family. Not everyone understands that or is in a place in their life where they can accept that or are willing to be that. The “social contract” changes. (Through this journey, I have lost some friends. And I have gained a bunch too.) Not easy.So — perhaps it’s JLM’s perspective of the years which lands on 5-6 friends who weather decades of us changing a lot. And still being there. Then again, maybe. 🙂

        1. Aaron Klein

          Yep. And there is something very special about the friends who are friends through every chapter. That might indeed come down to 5.

    6. Matt A. Myers

      I believe the only 5 true friends in life thing.

  8. Seth Godin

    I don’t think it’s an accident that all of you continue to make an impact.The intent and integrity you brought to the business was extraordinary. In 1997, I met with every VC on the East Coast (or at least it felt that way) and you and Jerry were head and shoulders above everyone. Not just the smartest, but the cutest, too.

    1. fredwilson

      i showed this photo to a colleague of yours last night seth. she got a big kick out of it. i also showed her two handwritten notes from you that sit on the bookshelf in my office. two of my most prized possessions.

    2. jerrycolonna

      Seth, you were one of the reasons Fred and I knew we’d be good partners. We’d both met you and both knew that you were someone special, someone we wanted to not only back, but to be part of lives. That shared realization became the basis of not only the way we worked but the way we thought about things together, as partners.I loved seeing that photo as well. I remember that night well. We’re all still those same people. Maybe even a little more deeply ourselves but essentially the same.

      1. reece

        i love hearing this history between you, @fredwilson:disqus @bfeld:disqus and Seth… so interesting…

      2. Matt A. Myers

        I like this; An upvote didn’t fill the need of expression; Sorry upvote, no hard feelings.

    3. bfeld

      Seth – you might not know this, but the day that Fred and I met for the first time was in your Yoyodyne office in some office park near Boston. That was the very first thing meeting I took for Softbank and I remember that day very well.

      1. Mark Essel

        That’s some awesome history connection. Damn time flies. I had just started my career as an engineer out of college in ’96.

        1. ShanaC

          I was in elementary school…I think this was the period when my parents had a tape drive to read data tapes that was taller than me….Though I vaguely remember having an internet connection back then….

      2. laurie kalmanson

        had they painted the walls purple and yellow yet?my path to working with the yoyos at yoyodyne’s ny office started with a ***classified ad*** in the nytimes. (newspapers so totally could have done what craigslist did, except they didn’t.)

        1. bfeld

          No – it was well before that.

          1. laurie kalmanson

            #becauseawesomei was a yoyo for a while before i made the boston trip.why would a brand new startup have a boston office and a ny one? because that’s where the founders lived.

    4. ShanaC

      The cutest? How so?

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        You did not see the photograph in post?

        1. ShanaC

          I did, but I think baby pictures of fred would be way cuter :p

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Clearly he’s talking about @fredwilson:disqus’s hair

    5. laurie kalmanson

      Like to infinity

  9. Robert Holtz

    I love that picture of you! What a “slice of life” moment you managed to capture there. Some people think it’s corny to be nostalgic but, who the hell cares if it is? I love folks who look back at things fondly. It means you’re emotionally-connected to what you’re doing and it means you love the life you’re living. Memories are part of what make us human. They provide perspective.And yes…1996 ROCKED for me too. What an amazing and magical time. In fact, from 1994 to 2000, I felt just about invincible. 1996 was a particular sweet spot. All of us changing the world and the money just seemed to appear when and as needed. It felt almost like we could do no wrong. The last few years have been somewhat resurgent but 2001-2006 were a rough five year period that I still can’t believe I survived it.Fred, question for you… Do you think there is another “1996” yet ahead for us in our collective future? To be totally honest, sometimes I think that can never be again (only one age of innocence) and other times I think we’ve barely scratched the surface and the future will be even better (older/wiser, more grateful). What do you think, Fred? Are our best days yet ahead?Thanks for honoring us with the walk down memory lane. Treasuring that. 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t think i will have another 1996. but i sure hope my children have theirs at some point in their life. i think having it at age 35 was just about perfect for me.

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Oh dear – that makes us around the same age – I guess the best just peak late 🙂 – or never !!!

        1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          My inspiration is my father-in-law … he started as entrepreneur at 52 and made a empire ( not really but enough to build a fort) and was working until died at 81.So you are actually 2-years earlier :-)… i feel i am 7 years earlier at 45.

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Kasi – Credit to you and respect for honouring the memory.My comment was slightly tongue in cheek – I am hungrier, readier and more excited than ever before – The work I do is what I am here for ( and my wife and family are 100% behind me despite the tough times) – So you young whipper-snapper lets race each other to the top !

      2. Robert Holtz

        Very well said. I’m going to let that sink in. Hope you’ll share some more memories with us again sometime when the mood moves you.

    2. Michael Elling

      1996: analog cellphones were still pervasive and cost $0.50-$3.00 per minute depending on where you were. People talked less than 100 minutes; but that was average with the median more like 30-50. Penetration was 8% of the population. There were 40 million pager addresses. Then a little GSM carrier thought like Rockefeller and priced to marginal cost at 10 cents/minute (their marginal cost was about 2 cents, all in). The rest is history. We are sitting on a similar precipice for broadband pricing, so another 1996 is definitely out there. Hopefully it comes soon.

  10. JimHirshfield

    Wow. Great history. It’s all about relationships. It being life, both personal and professional.

  11. reece

    while i knew you, Jerry, Brad and Rich went way back, i had no idea how farwhen i saw this picture, it really sunk in just how much those long-term relationships mean, and that is one of the biggest takeaways i’ve gotten from AVC since i started reading it years ago. thanks for that, Fredstartups are fast paced and they come and go, but we all believe in entrepreneurship, in making the world better, and we want the ecosystem to survive healthily for a long timeso as my cofounder @spinosa and i build our team, we look for the people who are going to be in this game with us for a long time, whether it’s seeing our current company through to the end, or being there for the start of the next one

    1. fredwilson

      take some great pictures of the shelby team and post them sixteen years from now

      1. ShanaC

        Physical or digital – physical photos have a quality of permanence and memory about them that I find hard to replicate with digital

    2. Robert Thuston

      That last sentence makes a lot of sense.

  12. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    The blast from the past…. really good.It brought a real smile on my face when i read …” And Feld is Feld”…. that says a lot.

    1. fredwilson

      he’s a special guy. i have never met anyone quite like him.

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        Yes. Precisely that is what i read and I smiled….that says how close and warm you feel about him.

  13. William Mougayar

    I bet you have 100 stories like that where some past event or turning point has a lasting lesson for the future. It is the accumulation of these that makes up one’s experiences in life & business.Why don’t you consider doing a series called Circa & tell us about something that happened way back then an link it tobthe derived life lesson from it. I’d like to hear one from 15 years ago, 17 years ago, etc.

    1. aarondelcohen

      This is a great idea. Circa is a great name for it as well.

    2. fredwilson

      circa sundays?

      1. William Mougayar

        It sounds good & it’s better than Sunday blues.

        1. Emily Merkle

          reminds me of a Sunday Sermon…….

  14. andyswan

    Whoa they had Instagram 16 years ago?????

    1. fredwilson

      yup. we used the humidity filter for that one.

      1. andyswan

        Haha! I’m convinced that 16 years from now when I go back to find “the moment it started”, I’ll give up after sifting through 10,000 pictures of former acquaintances’ desserts.

        1. Aaron Klein

          I loved your tweet on that this morning. A good reminder to use this technology we have for the important things.

        2. Denim Smith

          there is already a solution, no need to fear!

        3. Matt A. Myers

          It’ll be an amazing archive of cultural micro-changes. Seeing the rest of the world develop and evolve through the internet, and being able to see the efforts and engagement, and who specifically put the efforts in to making the world better — it will just be simply amazing.

        4. DonRyan

          If that picture doesn’t involve Pappy I will be sorely disappointed.

      2. laurie kalmanson

        i showed my digital native sprout a photo of a kodak instamatic, like the one i had in grade school:…– she did not perceive it as a photo of a camera. she perceived it as a screenshot of an app– she thought it had too many buttons– she had a description / mental model for each of the things — logo, nameplate — she perceived as a button– she had no mental model for a device with a tiny shutter button on the front, an eject button for the flashbulb and a crank/film winder on the back

        1. fredwilson


          1. laurie kalmanson

            yeah, it blew my mind. she uses the ipad, iphone, macbook and littl devices with ease; but every blocky object on the “interface” of the photo instamatic camera — logo, nameplate — she perceived as a native.that said, moveable type has been around for 600 years and not everyone can read

    2. andyidsinga

      best instagram snark eva!

    3. Luke Chamberlin

      Instagram is really going to confuse future generations. The generation being born now won’t be able to tell the difference between 1980 and 2010.

  15. Tom Labus

    It was all brand new then, was it more exciting, fun, intriguing?Like being on the frontier.

  16. Conrad Ross Schulman

    This photo epitomizes CHANGE. Just how Fred is always stressing how internet browsers, photo-sharing apps, and vcs/angels/entrepreneurs are always dynamic and changing. This shows you a group of forward-thinking guys who stuck together and made a significant change not only in tech, but in other fields like health, media, and hardware technology.This is very cool 100%. Fred you are priceless. Thanks for sharing this.

  17. Conrad Ross Schulman


  18. Ruth BT

    Thanks for sharing Fred – there is pure joy in the picture and I love that your connections run long and deep. It reminds me to nurture those kinds of relationships that I take for granted sometimes. And yes – that hair is just awesome in a 90’s kinda way!

  19. Michael Elling

    Of note that year as well; The Telecom Act of 1996. A well-intentioned farce. 2004 equal access died; and with it the spirit of Bill McGowan. 2007 marks the second coming of equal access; Steve Jobs RIP. All in 16 years…

  20. Wells Baum

    Hit precisely at the right time.Silicon Sally: “The 15-year period between 1995 and 2010 was one of strong economic growth and of a global boom in digitisation.”…

  21. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Wonderful picture. Wonderful year 🙂 It’s like looking at the Beatles in Hamburg!I have a feeling that year changed a lot of lives. It certainly changed mine.I hired Mark Pincus to build my first business in 2000. He had a small dev firm for a short time called Goat Hill. I’m still friends with some former Freeloaders, all good people.

  22. Greg Gortz

    Fred, did you know in 1996 that you had something special happening? Did you know that you would continue to work with these friends 15+ years later?

    1. fredwilson

      well i knew we were onto something and i thought the internet was going to be big. beyond that, i had no clue.

  23. jerrycolonna

    It’s so clear to me that certain “jobs,” certain partnerships, certain co-created endeavors define you, define your values, and bring out the best in you. Those years were great not because it was the beginning of a bubble but because of the core friendships that were forged. Here’s to my precious friends.

    1. Lock

      Beautiful comment. Wonderful post. And Harvard Square newsstand forever.

    2. Matt A. Myers


    3. fredwilson

      clearest in hindsight

      1. jerrycolonna

        Feh. We knew. Not precisely but we knew. I remember driving back from that meeting in Boston and the epic conversation we’d had in the car.

        1. fredwilson

          Remind why we drove back

          1. jerrycolonna

            You and airplanes didn’t exactly get along in those days.

          2. fredwilson

            still don’t!

          3. jerrycolonna

            And that, ladies and gents, is the real reason Fred wanted to build a NY tech scene.

          4. fredwilson


  24. iamronen

    how long did it take you to recognize that that was a turning point? did you know right then or it did it become clear later on?

    1. ShanaC

      Followup: is it possible to know until afterwards?

      1. iamronen

        My theoretical answer to your theoretical question is implied in my question 🙂

    2. fredwilson

      i knew it by 1998/99, but i didn’t realize the extent of it until a decade later.

  25. bfeld

    1996 was a pivotal year in my life as well as Amy and I moved to Boulder in November 1995. I turned 30 in December and 1996 was the beginning of my “30’s” which was an amazing, complicated, intense, and defining decade for me on this planet.You were a very important part of it. I’m glad the universe conspired to put us near each other.

    1. daryn

      ’96 was a big one for me too. Turned 20, moved to Seattle, met my now-wife, and chose to follow my fascination for the internet into a career!I got my first web job the following spring, armed with a portfolio consisting of some static html pages, an “online calculator”, and a futuresplash animation of my bouncing head 🙂

    2. Matt A. Myers

      I hope I can have sparks starting to fly by 30; That’s at the end of this upcoming April.

    3. Dave Pinsen

      I turned 30 in December and 1996 was the beginning of my “30’s” which was an amazing, complicated, intense, and defining decade for me on this planet.The “on this planet” qualification makes me wonder if there’s something you’re not telling us. Have you spent time elsewhere?

    4. Dasher

      1996 – was a milestone year for me. had our first kid, quit my job and started my first startup.

    5. fredwilson

      i think we have gary, ron, and charley to thank for that. i did some DDG’ing on Gary yesterday to find a good link to use for him. he’s aged pretty well considering what a wild man he is.

      1. Gary Rieschel

        yo…me? wild man? i guess some things haven’t changed. ;-)when are you going to visit us in Shanghai?we have all been incredibly lucky – i have now lived through the forming of the IT industry, the Internet, and now the Chinese VC community. Exhilarating (and exhausting!!)

        1. fredwilson

          not sure when i am coming to china Gary but i will let you know when i do come

  26. ShanaC

    You seem happy looking back, that lots of good things have happened. I hope more good things happen in the future.

  27. Denim Smith

    Now that’s what I’m talking about. Priceless. Look atcha now. Love it.

  28. ShanaC

    Other thing to think about – you’re making me rethink my fear/dislike of taking photos….

  29. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Right people @ the right time @ the right place … can that be explained better than this?Now i understand why Fred always recommends ‘young team’ and ‘a wise man’ combination.

  30. baba12

    Interesting story, I wonder if Mr.Wilson ( Fred) also has pictures with the people Flatiron or USV has invested over the last 16 years. If he has, would anyone standout and how many of those would be multiples i.e. invested in the same group of people, besides Mark Pincus.

    1. fredwilson

      yes i do and i will post them over timeand thanks for the (fred). it made my day.

  31. aarondelcohen

    So glad to see you writing about history Fred. We have so much to mine from people who have witnessed and participated during the past 2 decades. Netscape went public in August of 95, but I arbitrarily use Mosaic’s release in Februrary of 93 (some would say Fall of 92) to teach my class. No matter how you slice it, a lot has happened in a very short period of time. Historians and scholars have much to record and interpret.

  32. Lee Blaylock

    “Relationships are the currency of business” that’s so true and a keeper quote to use again – and I’ll give credit where credit is due!

  33. benortega

    well then that explains a lot of where your voice sits in today’s tech/web/social industries.Softbank is a bleeding edge company. They try things well before Japan does, and they are based in Japan. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with their CTO back in 2007. The way he spoke about what they were trying to do/change/participate in was so thought provoking. Well ahead of things.Cool story, great background on where your thinking stems from. Sure there is more… 🙂

  34. Paul Sanwald

    this is a very cool post, and very timely for me, because I am exactly 35 and after working in finance for the past 5 years I’m moving to a small analytics startup. I have a ton to learn and am super excited! 35 is a good age, I think.

    1. JLM

      .I will trade you my life’s wisdom for your age.Deal?The next 15 years will be your most productive years. Enjoy them.Every day go to work prepared to bite the ass off a bear.You will prosper..

      1. Emily Merkle

        Thank you, for you have been a major instrument thus far, whether I have let you know that or not. I am 37, and while I know there is much to be done, I am starting to feel a bit more comfortable doing it. It helps that I love what I do. I really do.

      2. Paul Sanwald

        JLM, thanks for this.

  35. FlavioGomes

    96 was such a high energy almost revolutionary year for me. Everything just seemed to be so in sync and promising. I kinda miss the squak of the modems.

  36. Pete Griffiths

    Fred – wasn’t Ron Fisher at Softbank at that time?

    1. fredwilson

      yes, he was the person who made this happen. he should have been in the photo.

  37. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    terrific and inspiring post. Building relationship and network especially in a new emerging startup centre is difficult but so rewarding when things start clicking. I am currently in the process of building similar networks in a new emerging city so this post was especially inspiring to me!!

  38. mcenedella

    You’re an overnight success!Just as a company cements its culture in the early days, and keeps it forever, a community creates its culture when it’s forming.Many people today probably don’t realize how long and how diligently you’ve been blogging. Back in the days when your posts were only getting 3 or 5 comments, you just kept plugging away, day after day. I couldn’t believe at the time (… ) and to some degree, I still can’t believe how much great stuff you, we, all of us now put on the web for free.The care with which you’ve educated a few generations of entrepreneurs in New York is inspiring. Thanks, Fred!

    1. fredwilson

      i was a failure for at least a dozen years before i had my first success in VC.

      1. FlavioGomes

        Not to be presumptuous, but I doubt you were a failure.

  39. LE

    I’d love to know more about what your parents and Gotham Gal thought about your career choices back then.

    1. fredwilson

      they were very supportive, thankfully

  40. jalak

    Fred, thanks for sharing and for being an integral part of the tech community here. Can’t believe so many years have passed since that first wave in NYC. In this busy time, a nice reminder to enjoy how far we’ve all come and appreciate the relationships we’ve built along the way…

  41. DonRyan

    Pure awesomeness.

  42. sam carson

    I have always thought to start something related to internet and have partners like you have but i think it is far away dream for me.

  43. Ben Apple

    Thats great, I hope to one day look back on my career and the friends I’ve made along the way with such fond memories

  44. James Droskoski

    Congrats Fred. It a pleasure to have you on the team here at WorkMarket!

  45. LE

    “Relationships are the currency of business. I cherish my relationship with all of the folks”So true. And this is why you need to be somewhere where you can foster all those relationships. You’re so lucky you were able to be in NYC.

  46. wiwa

    2012 is really similar to 1996. Obama is about to come in for a 2nd term (or not) just like Clinton did after a Bush. But economically have we recovered as much from Bush II in 2012 as we did from Bush I in 1996?

  47. Semil Shah

    This is a great post, love the reflection.

  48. Guest

    Oh, my….I run late on the one day of a post that I could have let my humor run wild….See Fred, there is a God and you should be thankful! :)I will say that you need to be thankful that your wife was able to see past that haircut of yours….

    1. John Revay


    2. fredwilson

      she made me get it

      1. Guest

        I am having trouble seeing the “revolution” in this bunch…..Actually, I would think that you all were standing in line to audition for parts in St. Elmo’s Fire! 🙂

        1. Emily Merkle

          Hands-done favorite movie, ever.

          1. Guest

            My favorite movie of all time is All That Jazz…Don’t ask me why as I have only seen it once but I still remember that movie…

  49. Brandon Burns

    fred… that haircut!this post put a huge smile on my face. here’s to the pics the rest of us will take today that we’ll look back on in 16 years. 😀

  50. Elia Freedman

    If there is a picture that calls for a reunion image, this it. Gather you all together, put you in the same locations next to some newsstand in downtown NY…

    1. fredwilson

      good suggestion. we need to do that the next time gary comes to the states

  51. JamesHRH

    I like the idea of a 1996 year.You are lucky to have had it – I think most people do not.

  52. JLM

    .This picture is what I call the “Wisdom of the Campfire” because it embodies the relationships and triumphs of those who have worked together and whose lives have become indelibly marked and intertwined by the weight of challenges met and overcome.There is a lack of healthy ritual — at the edge of the campfire — in our lives today. Not the kind of ritual that one associates with religion or family but the kind of ritual that celebrates life and its connective tissues.The kind of ritual which is the difference between tribal affiliation and national sovereignty. This is a huge issue in life today because as an example, we misunderstand the differences among Pakistanis, Afghans and Pashtuns.We may think that the nation of Pakistan is our ally — me, not so much — but we will never be admitted to the Pashtun tribe and we will therefore never really be allies.Tribal loyalties run deeper than any geographical accident of birth or artificial alliance of convenience or necessity.The fellows in this picture by its then current status and what they have done since then are members of a tribe and that is what is being celebrated.That is why this picture is so special to the fellows in it. They are celebrating their tribal ritual..

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Tribes FTW

    2. John Revay

      Trust you made it back home safely (it was a real pleasure to meet you in person)If Fred writes about Blog World…I hope you use that for a que to write the thoughts that you shared w/ the Disqus round table.5 best friends,Sizing up someone over playing a round a golf w/ them,Camp fire etc.As I commented earlier in the day, I wish your words were recorded

    3. FlavioGomes

      Beautiful J. I find it most inspiring when neighbouring tribes join together to meet a challenge. Some of the deepest bonds you’ll ever experience…with the spirit of respect enduring as they go their seperate ways back to their lands.

    4. Emily Merkle


    5. fredwilson


  53. Dasher

    an idea for fun friday – commenters post an old picture w/ friends that they treasure like this one.

  54. Emily Merkle

    Thank you for sharing, Fred.

  55. Matt Straz

    Rich Levandov is the nicest VC I’ve met. He has been a great friend and supporter to startup people like myself. If you have a chance to work with him, do it!