USV Identity Talent Audition

As we have blogged about, we are working internally to update our web presence. We've hired a part time software engineer who is helping us build something that we hope will better leverage the network that exists inside and outside of our firm, portfolio, and relationships.

As part of that work, we have decided that our identity could use a refresh too. So we've partnered with our portfolio company Behance and are conducting an online talent audition to design our new identity.

Here's how this design competition works:

To participate, simply submit your best brand/identity design work from your portfolio for consideration by our panel of judges (Note: this is NOT a “spec contest,” just submit a past project that best exemplifies your brand/identity work). The top 5 projects will be deemed “winners,” and their owners will be invited to take on USV as a client, proposing a new identity for USV, with a $1,500 guaranteed payment for responding to the brief. If your initial proposal is selected, USV will provide an additional payment of $12,500 for the completed work.

If you are interested, please visit the Behance page and click on the big green "submit your project" button. If you know someone who might be interested, please send them the link and ask them to submit their project for consideration.

My partner Albert, who is on the Behance board, has a longer post on the USV blog explaining why we are doing this and why we partnered with Behance to run this competition.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. John Best

    That’s a great opportunity. Will direct it to designer friends.

    1. fredwilson

      thank you

    2. skysurfer172

      Just sent an e-mail out to a few NYC based designers I used to work with!

      1. fredwilson


  2. whitneymcn

    I hope you keep the yellow/green/grey somewhere in the mix, but correct them: the MTA has documented the official line colors. :)…

    1. fredwilson

      we never set out to use the colors of the three trains that come into union square. but i like the way you think!

      1. whitneymcn

        Ha — I always assumed the colors were a Union Square reference.

        1. fredwilson

          Deeply subconscious apparently

  3. Max Yoder

    Nice work setting this one up, USV. I started holding my breath when I read the words “design competition,” hoping you wouldn’t re-ignite the spec debate. I’m excited to give this a shot.

    1. fredwilson

      what do you think of the amounts we are paying out? do they seem fair to you Max?

      1. Max Yoder

        I think it’s a win-win.You’re going to get bang for your buck; $20,000 is a solid investment if it results in well-executed and mindful re-branding effort.At the same time, I think designers will find the payment to be more than fair, especially since there are residual and enduring benefits to the central relationship.

        1. Scott Belsky

          Our team at Behance agrees, Max.No surprise, when it comes to quality, you get what you pay for. This is one age-old tenet that even the internet can’t transcend.What the internet can do is promote meritocracy: matching the best talent with the best opportunity (taking all factors into consideration, including skills, willingness to pay, compensation expectations, etc…).

          1. Max Yoder

            Right on, Scott. Nice to hear from you.


        THEM GOOD.

  4. awaldstein

    USV’s identity and how it plays to Albert’s and your blogs as traffic referrers is the first place I would want to understand what the world thinks.From there, you can go to what you might want them to think.

    1. fredwilson

      i am curious what you think of the design brief we wrote that is on the competition page arnold

      1. kidmercury

        did you commission suster to write it? it was kinda long.but i do think it communicated the identity/values well. i have a friend who is an outstanding designer, i forwarded it along.

        1. RichardF

          ha ha

        2. fredwilson

          Brutal discs kid!

      2. Richard

        I’ve been through this a process a few times – one thing that might be helpful is to state what the “deliverable” is. You seem to be straddling between strait design work and corporate identity (messaging), the two require very different skill sets.  Having a design guy establish your identity seems a little risky to me. Moreover, don’t forget about trade dress issues, uniqueness etc. 

        1. Scott Belsky

          One benefit of this “talent audition” approach is that you select 5 great brand/identity designers (based on their past work) who have a genuine interest in the project and the proposed payments. And then, once you have these 5 folks selected, you can connect with them, and invite them to get to know you a bit…I agree with the questions on “the brief.” Ultimately, I believe an effective brief includes a conversation and some analysis conducted by the designer (reviewing press on the client, their philosophy, etc…). A “one-page” brief is just a starting point.What I love about this NO-SPEC approach to crowdsourcing/finding talent is that it incentivizes/compensates a small group of people to invest their time and effort getting to know their client (something that never happens w/ typical online spec contests).And from the initial proposals that result from the five finalists, it often becomes clear who should take on the full/final project.

          1. Richard

            These are good points and a fair rebuttal.  I was just trying to point that that being able to speak English doesn’t mean you can write a great novel, and being able to code doesn’t mean you can come up with a great business model and being able to photoshop doesn’t mean you can put together a great identity. 

        2. fredwilson

          Thanks. Great advice. Will share with the team. Man I love this community.

        3. William Mougayar

          Yup. Very true re: diff between design & corp identity, although some larger firms will have both. Re: deliverables- a corp identity guidelines is the minimum deliverable of course, but it could also include Templates for ppt’s & google docs, email signatures, business cards, etc.

      3. awaldstein

        I’ll look at post meetings today Fred.

        1. fredwilson

          Thank you

          1. awaldstein

            Comment is below. Good luck with this!I’m not drawn to the process initially but very interested to see how it goes.

      4. awaldstein

        From one perspective, love it.Compensated network sourcing, doing what you preach and upfront and open from the get go. Conceptually in abstract I like,Very large architectural projects where the cost of presentation and the huge cost of the project itself use analogous parts of this process.That being said, not at all certain.Don’t like the proportion of $7500 to find the right one then $12.5 to compensate for the project. There is something broken in project logic in there for me.Don’t care for the time sink it will put your team through by presenting and getting to know 5 teams then sitting through and understanding each design to decide. This process may clarify your thinking but it won’t necessarily clarify the thinking with the individual who you will be working with.Creative processes are wacky and the process is often as important as the end. In fact, your learnings through the process imbue the result with value and rightness which you in tern sell forward.I don’t know that you get this piece with the process as I read it.Rushed but this is my initial impression.

        1. fredwilson

          thanks. we will learn from this process for sure. at some level it is an experiment. but i am optimistic that we will get a great result.

  5. Brandon Burns

    Kudos for organizing your rebranding effort in a legitimate way that’s respectful of creative talent and their work.Note to designers, UXers, writers, etc: An RFP should *always* request past work to determine short list selection, and any new work should only be requested from the selected pool of talent that’s validated to be similar to what the client is looking for. Your time is your currency, don’t waste it on come-one-come-all “contests” run by the clueless who expect you to work for free.I see too many requests like “make us a logo, and we’ll pick our favorite from the 1000+ entries and pay that person with $500 and some so-called-notoriety.” This behavior will never stop until creatives both ignore such craziness and take the time to educate those who don’t know any better on how things should be done if they want quality work.

    1. fredwilson

      so you approve of the approach we took? what about the payouts? do they seem fair?

      1. Brandon Burns

        absolutely approve. i wish more folks would run things in this manner.depending on what you mean by “brand identity” (i.e. just logo, or complete style guide for all web/print/etc. materials, or something in between) i think the payouts are fair, if you base it on freelance creative rates.a freelance creative in an NYC agency will get paid anywhere from $400 / 8-hour day for the most junior person, to $2000 / day for a seasoned executive-level creative director. how long something takes varies widely, from days to months, depending on the level of talent, what that client wants, and how many revisions are requested (the latter always adds up to the most time/money spent).at $12,500, you’re getting 40+ hours from rockstar talent, 80+ hours from a midlevel person, or 160+ hours from a junior — time/level matching is probably in the ballpark for what you want. and $1500 is a nice reward for just taking a couple days to whip up a couple new logos to see if they’ll be the chosen big note to you would be to define exactly what you want. logo only? a whole visual system? does “whole” = look and feel (typefaces, colors, treatments, etc) or do you want it all shown in actual layouts? do you want your whole new site laid out? this is what a quality designer will look at to see if the job is worth it or not.

        1. LE

          “$400 / 8-hour day”Wow. We used to charge customers in the 1980’s about $75 per hour for junior work. Work done by someone who was paid $12 to $15 per hour (plus benefits). And that was at a printing company.

          1. Brandon Burns

            a freelancer should try to have a job booked 50% of the time, depending on the market. based on that, $400 / day = $50k / year, and you have to pay your own benefits, your macbook pro, Adobe creative suite, etc. so, yeah, that’s hardly living the highlife… especially in NYC.those bottom rates are standard across good agencies and bad, but the top rates are only had at the top agencies… but when you’re creating work that leads to outsized profits for fortune 100 companies, its cheap labor.

          2. LE

            “freelancer should try to have a job booked 50% of the time”The classic freelance problem is the overhead time needed to support even 50% work. Such as pitching new work, answering emails, billing customers, collecting money from customers all of that.From my many years of experience I find that many freelancers lack discipline to get work done and operate like a regular “business”. We get requests from customers all the time who are looking for a designer to do their website. I would say these are jobs that fall primarily in the $1000 to $10000 range. Since I’ve started in this business (1996) I have yet to find a designer, firm, or likewise that will take a lead I give, follow up and handle the transaction in a business like manner.We get plenty of people who say “send us leads”.Then we will send a lead and never hear about it again. We even say “let us know what happens with this lead” and tell them that others don’t get back to us and still, zilch.The designer will send an email or will have one phone call and make a pitch. And if they don’t hear back from the potential client or if they get turfed by the client they don’t pursue and follow up at all. (I’m guessing because their time is limited and the perceived yield from effort is low). A lead is only a lead. It’s not a sale until you close it. And to close it takes persistence and sales ability more than it takes design skill. The persistent designer with simply good work or who has someone else doing follow up for them will be able to attract plenty of work.

          3. LE

            By the way, tip to any designer out there looking for work. Go in your town and knock on doors. I think you will be surprised at how many firms want to upgrade their web presence but don’t have the time to find someone and are looking for a turnkey solution. The idea of entering competitions means you will a) get paid less and b) be compared. Why be compared when you can just be judged on the basis of whether you can do the job or not?

          4. kidmercury

            not all contests equate to being paid less — i dont think this USV one does — and one is always compared, contests or not. i do agree with your advice to knock on doors, especially those just breaking into the market. i am taking a door to door approach for one local project i’ll be working on soon.

          5. LE

            “not all contests equate to being paid less — i dont think this USV one does”The idea that they are stating a price (in this situation is good). That way expectations are set right up front. I would just prefer (as I have pointed out in another comment) different price points.There is of course upside potential with this work vs. doing the same thing for a less visible project. That’s a big plus. Hard to believe that the winning firm won’t pick up additional work. When we use to bid on graphic design or printing projects it was almost a given that we would low ball a price to get a foot in the door. Then on future work we would be able to raise prices because we had the trust of the customer. Most of that work didn’t even require a bid.Note to any designers out there. If your name doesn’t appear on the site as the designer with a link, make sure to bury it in the HTML so when someone does “view source code” they can find your contact information. Nothing is more frustrating then seeing a design project you like and not being able to identify the source.

          6. Richard

            Great tip.

          7. Donna Brewington White

            “Nothing is more frustrating then seeing a design project you like and not being able to identify the source.”I’ve noticed that even on LinkedIn that sometimes designers do not have links to their portfolio, behance, dribbble, coroflot, etc. That’s crazy.And in general, if you are looking for a job or a project, make it EASY for people to reach you even if you create an email address specifically for that purpose –and publish it!

          8. Brandon Burns

            if you asked me to “do a website” for $1k, i wouldn’t follow up with you either. for $10k, you’d maybe get me to return an email to ask for more details, but “do a website” is a lot of work, and the amount varies on what the site is. ecommerce? content? informational? utility? is it going to be 3 pages? 1000+ pages? 2 templates? 12 templates?the client never really knows what they need, and when you start with budjets like what you’re offering, you’re not going to attract the expertise of someone who can help you figure it out.the most basic site, like 3 pages, after you’ve gone through a 1st stab, 2nd round, and a last refinement product, if you can complete the miracle of getting it done w/in just 3 rounds, which is usually impossible considering that clients never know what they want and ask for a billion changes, in the end you’re looking at a MINIMUM of 2 weeks work for 1 very experienced, skilled person — and only if you’re lucky enough to such a unicorn who can do both quality visual design and quality UX. $10k barely gets you 2 weeks of work from a mid-level person, who’s probably not going to have both of those skills. and that’s the TOP of your budget companies are poorly informed about what it takes to good design work. that’s why most of their sites suck. the good talent is getting paid their worth to build things for fair paying clients via an agency that knows how the whole thing should work, while the techies get stuck with the crap talent for crap prices.the big thing people don’t see: just because you’ve determined what the work is worth to you, doesn’t mean that’s what the work is worth in a fair market. you get what you pay for.

          9. LE

            “for $10k, you’d maybe get me to return an email to ask for more details, but unlikely.”I said: “fall primarily in the $1000 to $10000 range”(Primarily does not equal “all”. )And you have to differentiate between the local chinese restaurant that asks you for a price and you know they aren’t going to part with the big dollars, and you won’t get any other action out of the lead, and when someone who regularly comes in contact with people because they are in the business and gets asked for suggestions, help, ideas.Or, perhaps is a “connector” and proactively suggests people that have done work for them. If you are a designer and your price point is 10k or 100k or whatever you have to make that clear (not the case with the people who work has been referred to as I am well aware of the quality of work that someone does and what they charge). But even in that case, in order to get other business which the referrer might have, you have to appear to be helpful and business like in all cases. And always follow up.Now of course if a designer is busy and is always actively being sent work at an appropriate price point and being sought out none of this is necessary. Other than always following up even if to say “I can’t do this job but here is someone that I suggest..”

          10. Brandon Burns

            you’re right that following up should always happen. its common courtesy.personally, i always take the time to follow up, even if its just to say “not a good fit” to the chinese restaurant owner, connector, or anyone in between. i was just dramatizing the point. :o)

          11. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          12. Richard

            In 5 years, coders too.

          13. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          14. Richard

            Difference is academia has caught up, now teaching to code. Like engineers market supply always exceeds demand.

          15. Pete Griffiths

            Great designers who can really code are as rare as rocking horse shit.

          16. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          17. Donna Brewington White


          18. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          19. Donna Brewington White

            And whenever I get back to that little idea I’ve had to place on hold you will be one of my first calls to seek advice. I bow to your recruiting prowess.

          20. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          21. Donna Brewington White


          22. ShanaC

            depends on the field. I know of a designer making good money doing package design because of shipping regulations. Pallet sizes and all that jazz

          23. Brandon Burns

            the idea that every should code is lunacy. design and code are different skill sets. do you want your architect to also be your contractor? your doctor to also be your dentist? when you want quality work, and to not screw up the output, you get specialists who know their stuff.we need to stop looking for hybrid unicorns that don’t, and won’t ever exist.actually going to a “debate” on this topic tonight, apart of @brooklynbeta, if anyone wants to go: http://designersdebateclub….

          24. FAKE GRIMLOCK


        2. fredwilson

          Thanks. We thought a lot about this. We want to respect creatives not rip them off

      2. LE

        One potential modification would be to give people who are presenting work the option of choosing 3 different price points for what they do.It’s possible that you might like someone who would want $25,000 (arbitrary) for their work better than $12,500. Or someone who wants $7500 might be better than $12,500.When someone travels all hotel rooms are not priced the same. You might decide that the Mandarin Orienta at $450 per night is a better value and nicer than the Marriott at $350 per night. Or you might find that Ritz Carlton is running a special at $375 per night which meets all your requirements.


        I disagree with Brandon, but only on the send past work, because I think “Send us some past work” is kinda’ like a resume. When people deal with shabby companies the “outcome” can be shabby. But, the process may have been great! What people can do for *you* is what you’re wanting to know. Not what people did for someone else. Remember it takes two to tango and the client those people worked with could have been jackasses.The compensation is too low. It should have another zero on the end, at least. Rebranding is worth millions of dollars. Especially to a company like a VC that deals with hundreds of millions of dollars.The great thing I see is that you tried to make the project open to whoever *can* do good work. But, I think you need to adjust your process a bit to *ensure* the process picks the right crew or mix of crews.

      4. Eunice Apia

        The approach was good. It’s a great chance for new or struggling designers to have a chance at getting their work out there…or artists to make quick money, doing something they already do; create.

      5. Josh Nychuk

        completely agree with Brandon. Your approach to base judgement off previous work is both respectful and up-to-snuff with industry standards. I expect you’ll be quite satisfied with what you get out of this. The tough part will be making a decision with who to work with because there is a lot of incredible talent on Behance!

  6. ShanaC

    Does the person have to be currently US based? One of my Ex’s is a designer, but he is out of the US

    1. fredwilson

      Great question. I will ask.

    2. fredwilson

      Shana – this is a global audition. Designers are welcome from all over the world

  7. dineshn

    Curious – didn’t you want to try out ? Guaranteeing an amount on a contest like this on that site results in some pretty good entries, in my experience.

    1. fredwilson

      We like to use the services of our portfolio companies when ever possible

  8. brian trautschold

    this is real cool. good luck all

  9. kirklove

    Very cool. Not sure if you remember but we “met” when I sent you over some proposed USV branding. Still think it’s pretty good (looking at it again).Like the idea of using one of your portfolio companies, though the word “contest” makes me cringe a bit. Pricing/structure seems more than fair, though it doesn’t outline the breadth of work exactly. May have to dust off my design skills and throw my hat in the ring. Good luck!

    1. fredwilson

      Can you fish them out and resend? I thought we met over food and music!

      1. kirklove

        I think it was those two things as well. Remarkably the old spec USV branding campaign is still online at http://www.kirklove.fatcow….God bless the internets.

        1. fredwilson

          holy shit. apparently we owe you $1500!! :)any interest in seeing calexio and the dodos sat night?gotham is out of town and i’m in the mood for live music

          1. kirklove

            I accept either Perla or Fedora dollars. ;)Sure, email or text me details. FYI: Sent you an email (prob got buried) Cold Fronts playing tonight at midnight in the L.E.S. if you have interest / still on West Coast time.

          2. Donna Brewington White

            Fun exchange to watch between you and Kirk – ha. We’ve got St. Vincent here tomorrow — with David Byrne — opening for him? Not going, unfortunately. I would be going more for St. Vincent. Not sure if I discovered on or turntable.

          3. fredwilson

            i like to live in public as much as is reasonable

  10. Nelson Bostrom

    Use janrain to enable social sign-on 🙂

  11. Rohan

    I don’t know if it’s because I am not a designer but I found it rather difficult to comprehend the ask.

    1. LE

      I did a quick read of it as well and have a fair amount of experience in this area. I didn’t feel it really conveyed the info in a way that a designer would be able to relate to. I think the “Background: USV & Redesigning Our Identity” and “Beliefs” are not needed at this phase of the idea and a distraction.The idea is to have as many designers indicate interest and buy into the idea at the pricing mentioned. I understand there is another objective to support a portfolio company, behance, but I question if that might be serving to many masters. I also was confused by the part that said the following:”Round 1 will be judged by the USV team and designers from their portfolio companies such as Kickstarter, Foursquare, Twitter, Etsy and more. “Design can definitely be spoiled by to many chefs etc. There is little right and wrong with design, it’s a matter of taste. The sofa I buy might not be the sofa you buy. Additionally even when you hire a firm that submits work you have to make sure that the person doing the actual work hasn’t left the firm. People have a particular style of work. If many people collaborate on a project, if they are not all present in the new work, it won’t come out the same.Also, I’m not seeing any distinction that is obvious as far as design vs. implementation of this.[1] Who is going to take care of setting this up on a (CMS|Typepad|Wordpress|Joomla|etc)? Will it be the designer or will that be handled by someone else? In other words, what will be the deliverables required in exchange for $12,500? (Obviously there will be a point when this info is given, I’m guessing after the 5 are selected at $1250 to submit proposals. (Maybe I missed that info, I don’t see it?)[1] Seeing “We’ve hired a part time software engineer” here but I don’t see that appearing anywhere else.

      1. Richard

        Spot on, see my comments below.

      2. Rohan

        I agree. I was left with all those questions, LE.Maybe I’m thick (you could argue there’s no maybe.. haha) but If I were reading it, I am asking 2 questions -1. Why are you doing this? (this, I feel, is sort of answered. But I was left a bit confused with all the ‘network’ references)2. What does success look like? (This, I definitely was not clear)

        1. LE

          Probably would be helpful when writing this document to run it by two audiences first (maybe we are that sandbox, ha.)1) People who would typically be reading it (designers) but who aren’t beholden to USV, it’s principles and would pay the typical amount of attention and make a snap judgement. What do they think? This of course takes more work then USV really is going to do. I’m simply pointing it out as a practice to be used by others.2) Find the stupidest person in the room and have them read it. See where their eyes go and what their reaction is. There is no point in making something more complicated than it needs to be, even if that is the practice that others employ. Don’t simply copy what others do. (You’re to young to remember moronic “download netscape now” buttons.)”What does success look like?”Success will boil down to all the people reviewing liking the design that they see. But as I have pointed out everybody has a different idea of style that they like. “Camel is a horse by committee..” I’m glad I don’t have to get more than my wife to agree where we take vacations. Imagine if I had to get 7 people to agree where to go, what to do, and where to stay, what time to fly.

      3. ShanaC

        I think good design is like software engineering – you know it when you see it. You react strongly to it. It isn’t like art, where any reaction is good. Good design has a functional problem involved.Though branding as design is a whole other category of issues. It is a more recent idea when it comes to history of design. I think in that sense, it gets closer to the art side rather than the design side of the Bauhaus.

    2. Ela Madej

      It’s all in your mind.

    3. andyswan

      The answer is yes

      1. Rohan

        Okay. Thanks.

        1. leigh

          it was a bit of a confusing brief. maybe they need to do a behance post for a great brand strategy first ????

    4. PhilipSugar

      I think this is always the case when you have one group that does something everyday and one group that doesn’t do that task but once every five years.I work with my gals on this all the time because you have to put yourself in the customers shoes: It goes something like this:What do you have?What you want?I don’t know what I want until I see what you’ve gotWell that depends on what you wantFrustrated customer leaves muttering under their breath.You need to give the classic: You can have cheap, fast, or good: pick two.If you’ve done this before you should be able to say for $12,500 I can give you this. What I do like is that you get paid something to do the proposal. For people that do sales that always is a sore spot. Generic this is what we do should be free, but it hurts when you put in effort and don’t win (by definition here you only have a 20% chance of winning)

      1. Rohan

        Nicely stated, Phil. Makes sense.

        1. PhilipSugar

          And this also cuts out the how much does it cost? How much do you have to spend painful dance. Also I am wrong on saying you get $12.5kBecause if you told me that I could get a $14k job and I have to do the upfront work for free and have a 1 in 5 chance of winning versus, I get paid $1.5k upfront and another $12.5k if I win, I’d take the latter all day long. So its worth somewhere between $14k and $20k.Whether that’s a fair price depends on how you the designer scope it and what you think its worth.

    5. Eunice Apia

      I think Union Square Venture is looking for a new branding or logo…

  12. Ela Madej

    Shared with Polish startup/design community on our FB page!

  13. mikenolan99

    I really admire that you are not looking for “spec” work… my feelings against spec work have changed over the years, and now agree that it devalues the work of an entire industry.My friend Saul Colt at Freshbooks is outspoken about this – here’s a link to one of his recent blog posts.…I’d love to call three law firms and say “why don’t you each submit articles of incorporation and I’ll choose which one I like the best.”

  14. takingpitches

    I love this statement in Albert’s post:”Central to our overall investing thesis is the belief that the internet enables the creation of new networks that can replace traditional hierarchical organizations across the economy and society. Networks tend to be powerful because they are more resilient, more effective and more inclusive.”For my money, network forms of talent search/elevation/validation are the true radical movement in Web 2.0, inspired by, but ultimately with even more foundation-shifting potential than pure social.We live in a hackathon-inspired world (github for computer code, behance for design, Kindle publishing for books, Kickstarter for art, design projects, Sidetour for experiences, etc., etc.) where “ability to do” should matter more than the artifacts such as a brand name of firm or school or resume that traditionally intermediated the talent/client relationship.For lack of a better term, I call these talent authenticity platforms.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Talent authenticity platforms. I like that.Not sure you are referring to talent as “employees” or as service providers, but either way, it works.I’ve been thinking more and more about the disruption of how companies “do talent” — especially in engaging new talent and retaining existing talent. My experience is more in the former, which creates deep insights into the latter. I keep thinking there must be a better way to do this. I hate that recruiting for instance sometimes feels like something artificial rather than an organic part of a business. Unfortunately, I have limited time to more fully develop this disruptive thinking, but I think I am on to something.I am intrigued by the use of the word “artifacts” to describe the things you did — interesting.

      1. takingpitches

        Thanks Donna.I was referring to talent as broadly as possible. In what I am doing, it’s more about service providers, but it’s also about artists (Kickstarter), design (behance), authors (Kindle, wattpad), etc.And it’s definitely about employees too. As I have been saying to some of our potential beta clients and investors, we live in a “hackathon world.” It’s how Facebook and other tech companies like that hire. It’s the way to surface the rare find. It’s the way that a Jeremy Lin gets off the bench and becomes a star.The Business Week Article I link to in the following post is pretty good on the employee point:

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Just read the post — loved it — and ordered the book “Finding Rare Talent” — thank you. Now I am wondering if you are me in disguise. Except you don’t have Disqus on your blog. Hand slap.Now going to put the quote from WSJ on my Tumblr (will give you credit) and then back to work! Whew.Thanks again — you’ve pointed me on an amazing path here.

          1. takingpitches

            (Blushing)Ha, thanks – that made my day!I think we are kindred spirit — both interested from different angles on how you empower people through networks and technology to reach their fullest potential to contribute.

          2. William Mougayar

            Double slap for not having Disqus on your blog. I can guarantee you will have more discussions then.

          3. takingpitches

            Fair criticism — I am going to have to think about moving off the blogging platform as it does not support Disqus.

          4. Abdallah Al-Hakim

            As a regular commenter I find the process of leaving a comment via WordPress to be painful. There are better options such as disqus and I agree with the others that it will improve discussions on your site.

  15. LIAD

    Be #hardcore. Crowdsource the short list and the ultimate winner.

  16. Mesh Lakhani

    Have you thought about posting this on So much talent in that community that might not be exposed avc.

    1. karen_e

      I thought about that too. It won’t be long until one of the designers I send this lead to posts it on Dribble. Or not, if they want to keep it to themselves! 🙂

      1. Mesh Lakhani

        Yea I sent it to a few of my designer friends who are on Dribbble. @fredwilson:disqus I think your approach is awesome. Really shows the respect you have for the design community (and they deserve it). Best of luck!

    2. Richard

      I have used dribble. Solid group of designers. Expect to pay > $100/hr

    3. fredwilson

      We want to invest our time energy and relationships in the companies we invest in

  17. jason wright

    web presence – mobile and touch screen enabled would be so right.identity – are you keeping the USV name?$1,500 & $12,500. The first seems fine, the second perhaps not quite so.Get Jenny Ignaszewski to avatar all the partners and associates.

    1. fredwilson

      Actually we are named union square ventures. The market calls us USV. Which is better?

      1. jason wright

        The acronym will always prompt the inevitable question, so perhaps the long form is better.The words ‘union’ and ‘square’ might serve in abstract as the conceptual inspiration for the graphical building blocks of the new design.

      2. StartUpJerkFest

        go with the market name. the market is always right, blah blah blah.and who are your markets? your current USV website is very “us” centered – who we are, what we do, etc. what types of people visit your website, and what do they want to do while at your website? hopefully the new designer will bring in some user experience knowledge and strategy so the new website will have pathways for visitors to follow, i.e. are you interested in investing with USV? start here. Are you a startup wanting to learn how to pitch? click here. Are you a reader interested in our outlook on the current tech world? read these blog posts. Are you looking to connect and interact with people who can challenge your views and introduce you to new concepts? click here. ETCmy beef with the branding contest is it’s only a bunch of images submitted for consideration. i haven’t see any explanation of how the designer works to come up with the branding image that paints the picture of a thousand words. the brand visual is a shortcut the allows a shopper to recall all the attributes of the company. how will you know if the designer has the ability to research, interview, dig deep and come up with a narrative that reaches your customer types and can be summed up in a single visual iconic image? it seems like dating: you might have initial attraction from a visual, your friends may say that person is hot (likes, appreciation, etc), but you won’t realize they have no depth until you begin to interact with them. meanwhile the best match may be buried under 1,000 submissions.what is the problem with your current branding? why do you feel you need new branding? what have customers told you that lead you to believe you need new branding etc? you could probably write several blog posts about each of these questions in this disqus posting.oh and Happy Halloween!

  18. William Mougayar

    You’re great at using your own portfolio companies services. The compensation offered is fair for the caliber and reach you have. I’ve been involved in such exercises before and they traditionally range from $2-4K for a small startup, up to $100K for a large Fortune type company. Will you be expecting a tag line to go with the new logo design?


    Awesome Fred, awesome!

  20. Ben Hansen

    was about to submit a branding example but when signing up through google the thing wants access to my contacts :/

  21. Eunice Apia

    I’m going to try. I am an artist but I’m not fully a graphic designer yet. I’m working on it.

    1. Richard

      Send me some of your work. Im looking for an illustrator.

      1. Eunice Apia

        I’m sorry if my comment was misleading. My talent is very basic as you can see from my icon. I am not a fine art artist. I am currently working with clay.

        1. StartUpJerkFest

          beauty is in the eye of the beholder. so don’t discredit yourself as being a beginner. everyone starts somewhere, and feedback moves us somewhere else, hopefully to a better place 🙂

  22. LE

    Interesting article along the lines of how this situation is handled according to a veteran in the advertising business with respect to an agency pitch:…The new business pitch is the way agencies win most of their business and grow. The end prize for the winning agency is to get a contract and get paid for the work done, since very few clients compensate agencies for work done during the pitch. Agencies incur significant expenses pitching for new business. It is not unheard of to spend in the six figures, even seven figures, trying to win a plum assignment. The losers have to eat the expenseAt first glance this seems terribly unfair.But it is not unlike a home improvement salesman that goes out to quote a job after being called from their yellow page ad. Typically a homeowner might meet with 3 people and get an estimate from each. Assuming that the homeowner chooses 1 person they then have a 33% chance of getting the job even if they are all equal in pricing and features. Even if you adjust for homeowners that don’t give anyone the job, they still will get a decent percentage of wins (say 20%?) to spend the time to pitch people who don’t give them any work. Consequently, when a large company invites ad agencies to pitch they don’t invite 100 agencies. So they have a finite amount of competition to go up against. This isn’t a casting call. In the end if they get to pitch enough they will win work or they will go out of business. And then they no longer have to worry about wasting effort on new pitches.It is perhaps easier said than done to lecture agencies about insisting on getting paid for strategic thinking. After all, the new business pitch can be the path for growth, and principles alone don’t pay the bills.This misses an important point. For the same reason that the plumber can’t charge for an estimate people in at least that high end of the agency business can’t charge either. (Although it does sometimes happen apparently) It’s simply not what their competitors do. By convention. So there would have to be some mass movement (ala airlines deciding to charge for baggage) and I would almost guarantee that agencies would not break rank and follow any lead in this area. Most likely there would be enough qualified large agencies to bid on the work for free. (Just like plumbers). That said I’m sure there are some super spectacular creatives that can demand money for a pitch just like anything in life can be negotiated if one party has the balance of power.Lastly, the fact that there is no friction at all in getting people to bid on work almost insures that you will not be paying (unlike USV) someone to bid on work. There are plenty of qualified people to bid. It takes no effort at all. You just put the project out there. USV didn’t have to offer $1250 for a pitch although it’s great for the people who get to pitch. It at least offsets some of their costs. I’ve thought about doing the same thing after having people give me quotes. Offering a consolation prize. (Thinking about something of course doesn’t cost me any money.)I would imagine also as part of the payment for any ideas those ideas are owned by USV and can be combined or used in the winning project by a competitor. I guess that’s obvious.



    1. falicon

      Me glad you back and actively commenting on avc today 😉

      1. Donna Brewington White

        We just needed a topic that he’s passionate about. And this is one of them– apparently.

  24. Pete Griffiths

    Crowdsourcing – love it.

  25. Guest

    Great stuff!

  26. Dayna Gant

    Sorry this is long. My first real post, but it’s a subject Icare about.I’d like to add a perspective to consider on brandbuilding/refreshing with Union’s new initiative. What it seems to me is adesire to have a better method of communicating and facilitating thoughtprovoking dialogs on/around/using/building networking platforms to furthertechnological breakthroughs that help build world class companies, which canmake the world a better place. I’ve been a silent observer of Brad and Fred(and now Albert, Andy and John plus their great core of associates over theyears), and USV/Fred’s blog. In full disclosure, I am an investor in all oftheir funds and helped them raise their first fund.The raw idea of Union Square Ventures was spawned by tworeally smart investors that by and large the mainstream venture investorsdidn’t understand or didn’t like; the objections were sometimes comical – NYC?Really?; Sometimes box checking – two guys? – but most often, they didn’tunderstand what Brad and Fred saw and felt was coming. What Brad and Fred didwas create a ‘brand’ Union Square Ventures, pictured by, what I feel is aclearly identifiable logo that is perfect, and to me iconic, a square withsimple fonts and colors that were unconventional then but now know meantintersecting subway station colors, how cool is that. Back then the ‘books’were printed and I know many LP’s that still have that square book on their desk.It was written in the first person, from the heart and an educated thoughtfulmind, with funny lines about what they’d learned, and oh yea, a great trackrecord. They’ve since adopted a more conventional USV name. Boring to mebecause so many groups are known by ‘letters.’ But in many parts of theinvestor world, perhaps not with entrepreneurs, the team is known simply as‘Union.” I know it was named after the location but the simple name has greatmeaning to me now. What is the essence of a well-functioning network? To meit’s a great union, a place for discussion with people from everywhere andevery background, engaging in lively debate, tolerance, harmony, may I suggest,marriage? But in the end, the ‘union’ thrives through its disparate networks andthe people in it working towards a better ‘union.’My personal belief is that the logo is perfect and shouldnever be changed, nor the colors. The brand now to me embodies a living thingwithin the team and what they believe and invest in. The reason it’s effectiveto me is because of the vision they had and the investments they’ve made. Someforget but it really is all about returning meaningful capital to the investorsthat place money with them; many of whom have never used Twitter, Foursquare,Zynga, Indeed, Twilio but perhaps have tried Etsy. But the pension planretirees, endowments and foundations, and others, that rely on those returnsare very happy. It’s worked. Not because of the brand, the logo or the websiteor even Fred’s blog, but the “union” or network they’ve created through vision,hard work, careful thought and execution, not always perfect, but no union isperfect.I’d like to put it out there that I see the real challengefor ‘refreshing’ the website/blog/communication factor is simply that. Ignorethe things that have worked and have stuck in everyone’s mind, the logo, thecolors, the investment thesis, simple descriptions of the companies. Work on agroundbreaking platform for communication among the constituents you want toreach the most and give everyone something to use to build a better ‘Union.’That, to me has led to Union being among the greatest investors that we’ve seenin a long time because they can recognize ideas and people and help them turnthem into world class companies.Don’t mess with what’s worked and sticks with people whenthey think of who Union is. Work on creating something to take the Unionconcept of communication to another level. What’s the saying” If it ain’tbroke, don’t fix it. Need more effective communication? Start by listening andthen discussing and then….or what might FakeGrimmy say? And I paraphrase: JUSTDO LEAVE FLUFF STUFF ALONE. GOOD FLUFF STAY GOOD.

    1. Russell

      I agree with Dayna on this – you mentioned in an earlier post that you get preferential terms with many of your investments because of your reputation and the publicity and relationships you can offer. The USV brand neither under or over sell what you are offering.My sense is you are struggling with a different problem experienced by many companies – that the founder is the brand, now you are starting to think about longevity and what is the brand beyond the founder? As you don’t run to maximize ad revenue, perhaps you should focus on generating discovery for other elements of your business/investments. That is real currency, far more valuable than a new logo.

    2. ShanaC

      First off, Danya, Welcome. Secondly, wow, I want to see that first pitch book.Thirdly, I’m not sure I agree. As I’ve gotten older (I’m not that much older but still), I realized that clothing, etc, help define parts of who I am. And much like branding, they’ve changed as I aged. Union Square Ventures is also changing (more people as a starter), and they probably need more “clothing” to reflect this change.Other than that, really well written, and I wished they went by Union istead.

      1. Dayna Gant

        All I can say is that it really was 5 pages. They kicked and moaned as we ripped out pages. By the end they rarely opened the pitch book.

        1. ShanaC

          Haha. Must have been fun to go through at the time. This is random, but you do you mind if I shoot you an email about something related? I need to ask some advice.

          1. Dayna Gant

            Of course not!

    3. Matt A. Myers

      “The raw idea of Union Square Ventures was spawned by tworeally smart investors that by and large the mainstream venture investorsdidn’t understand or didn’t like; the objections were sometimes comical – NYC? Really?; Sometimes box checking – two guys? – but most often, they didn’t understand what Brad and Fred saw and felt was coming. What Brad and Fred did was create a ‘brand’ Union Square Ventures, pictured by, what I feel is a clearly identifiable logo that is perfect, and to me iconic, a square with simple fonts and colors that were unconventional then but now know meant intersecting subway station colors, how cool is that”This is a great and simple example to showcase to do what you want, put your everything into it, and not worry if others understand what you’re doing. Clearly this has to come with confidence that your deeper understanding will function, and is the better way, where things will evolve – meaning that how you function is where people will naturally prefer and flow with once the systems exist; Less friction means more fluid, means more natural; Friction gives way in such things physically such as with earthquakes, or in society as rebellion / revolution when control is contrary and unsupportive to basic human needs for survival.Re: Their website – I would say the current USV website doesn’t service everything they are hoping, and so in that sense it is broken – or at minimum obsolete. The behind the scenes, the people, are still the same people – evolved in their own understanding and experiences, and I imagine that will come through in whatever the new USV web presence unveils as.I know where I want to be in 5 years from now isn’t represented by what I currently can present to people.For myself I’m working on the equivalent of doing 5+ startups all at once. It’s not conventional – and I’ve received enough flak for it – however that’s how big my plans have evolved to; I am prioritizing and moving things along where and when I can, so far so good. It is a lot of work, and I will keep moving forward with it so long as I believe I’ll have advantages over the competition I will face. USV is similar in that respect, where they are pioneers and visionaries that are leading the way, announcing what they want and are interested in, being more transparent than not, and attracting the people they want to work with to them.I think their website can use an upgrade. It’s not broken, just missing some interface pieces.

    4. fredwilson

      great rant Dayna. and yes, you were there at the start.i really like the idea of calling our firm Union.but the market calls us USV. we didn’t make that happen. the market did.

    5. Donna Brewington White

      I really enjoyed this comment. Hopefully you’ll rant more often.

  27. Donna Brewington White

    Once again USV gets high marks for your approach to engaging talent. I am taking notes.

  28. Lee Blaylock

    Fred, from your post…” We’ve hired a part time software engineer who is helping us build somethingthat we hope will better leverage the network that exists inside and outside ofour firm, portfolio, and relationships.”Fred, I have an app and website in private beta that is doing exactly this and much more. We’re off the radar on purpose for now but would be honored to include Union/USV in our private beta. It will help you answer a simple, but powerful question “who can we get an intro to at XYZ firm (or a specific person) that someone in the USV (private) ecosystem knows and has in their smart phone or other source?” It is very different than LinkedIn or other networking sites.We do it in a very unique way that never puts the contact owner in an uncomfortable position. email me at lblaylock at whoat dot net if interested.

    1. fredwilson

      That isn’t the use case we are targeting with our new web site. But I would be happy to try your app when it is ready

      1. Lee Blaylock

        thx. I’ll be in touch shortly after our next iteration.

  29. Guest

    can you edit the project after you submitted it?