Video Of The Week: Rohan's Interview With Albert Wenger

One of the secrets of the venture capital business is the magic behind a successful partnership. It is one of those things where the total is way more than the sum of the parts. At USV, I’ve been lucky to work with Brad for ten years, Albert for eight years (starting with his stint as President of Delicious), John for three years (but really for many more than that), and Andy for almost two years.

Each of us brings something different to the partnership and like a winning basketball team (we are also five), each person knows their role and delivers when it counts. Each partner has a hot hand for a while, then cools down, then gets hot again.

The hottest hand at USV in the past few years belongs to Albert who has been killing it. Many of you know him from his blog called Continuations. I finally got around to watching AVC community member Rohan’s interview with Albert and it captures much of what makes Albert so great to work with. So I am making Rohan’s interview the video of the week:

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Jorge M. Torres

    Fred, do you have thoughts on how one should go about choosing a partner for a VC fund? Do you overweight past successful working relationships? Work with friends? Do the approaches successful entrepreneurs use to find co-founders work? Perhaps this would be an interesting subject for a future post on AVC.

    1. fredwilson

      Past successful working relationships is a requirement. That’s where we start.

  2. takingpitches

    Way to go Rohan!!

    1. Rohan

      Thanks a lot. πŸ™‚

  3. David Semeria

    Excellent Albert and Rohan!By the way, how do you say “dongle” in German?

    1. albert

      I am not going there πŸ˜‰

      1. David Semeria

        Very wise.

      2. David Semeria

        Also, I agree that often you don’t know whether a day was genuinely good or bad until much later. But I disagree when you say that machines are (or soon will be) doing many tasks humans currently do.In services I can’t currently imagine a robot plumber, policeman or chef, and in manufacturing I would say the transformation of the Chinese workforce has played a much greater role than has technology.That’s not to say there have not been amazing changes brought on by technology. But I see these changes more in terms of your own phrase “networks over hierarchies” (ie people displacing other people) rather than in terms of machines doing the displacing.

    2. Rohan


  4. William Mougayar

    Good take-aways. Thanks Rohan for clearly transcribing the interview. My favorites parts were:- “The single biggest productivity gain comes form doing small things immediately as opposed to adding them up to a list of to-dos.” Excellent advice. Just do it :)- “I think that we can build an open diagnostic database.” Why don’t we have that yet? Instead, we end-up doing detective work to find out about something. If Google can put together NCAA scores on a search query and know the page ranks of every page on earth, they’re the ones to figure this out…if they wanted to.Problem today is that there’s TOO Much information that’s useless, inaccurate or plain just bad advice. This also applies to startups:

    1. Rohan

      Thanks a lot, William! Credit to the team that’s behind the great work. As you know, there’s 3 of us who do this. πŸ™‚

  5. BenParis

    Thanks Fred for sharing your thoughts, knowledge, insights and experience. I have been following you online for a couple of years now, and I must say you have been quite inspirational to many, and at least to me…you are right: successful business is about people…So thanks for that!

  6. David Petersen

    Albert is the Bruce Willis of Venture Capital.

    1. albert

      I will take that as a compliment!

      1. Aaron Klein

        I’m not sure exactly what he meant, but I do know this: at the end of every investment, you may be bloody and bruised, but you won. πŸ˜‰

  7. Steve G

    Fred, off topic, but in the past you wrote about Sandy Hook Promise…today’s Joe Nocera NYT op-ed reports they’ve found Silicon Valley support for an ‘innovation initiative’ …just wondering whether u know if NYC/CT VCs passed on this .

    1. fredwilson

      We were asked to pledge to invest in gun safety startups. We declined. We don’t known the first thing about the gun safety market or the technologies involved. We would be doing a disservice to our investors to invest their money in areas we don’t know anything about

  8. Hank Williams

    The discussion of the future of work and whether the capitalist model works in a world where machines begin doing most of the work is one of the things I have been most fascinated with and concerned about. He referenced the social unrest which may come from that and I absolutely concur. It is interesting to hear more and more people agree about this. I wrote about this on business insider perhaps four years ago and had Henry make a comment which was essentially dismissive of he idea. I’m glad to see this discussion going more mainstream because I think while it is still not talked about enough, it is likely the defining issue of the technological age.

    1. albert

      You were ahead of the time then! Even Krugman has now acknowledged in his column that this time round technology has a distinctly anti work bias.

      1. Hank Williams

        Indeed. I was very glad to see paul write about it.If your curious here was the original piece:http://www.businessinsider….and below henry’s response, circa 2009 (top level point… times have changed!)I think you’re more concerned than you need to be here. Since the dawn of time, hundreds of millions of jobs have been eliminated for good, as technology solved needs we didn’t know we had. The same thing is happening–and will continue to happen–this time around.True, we don’t need as many mortgage brokers and real-estate agents as we needed in 2007. But, as it always has been, necessity will be the mother of invention, and most of those folks will eventually find other things to do. Same for laid-off newspaper reporters, assembly-line workers, and so on.I very much doubt the technology for growing food and making clothing will ever be more cost-effective for each house to own as opposed to being made in factories. But if it ever is, humans will find other things to do. They always have, and they always will.Whether the wealth gets tied up in the hands of a few folks is a different question. I don’t think that trend has much to do with technology eliminating jobs, though.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      If the “profits” go to the “machines” and profit systems want to be perpetuated, then those profits will continuously go to the machines – and money won’t be diverted to the population of people at large.How does this get combated? Taxes, and efficiencies with systems – and where I am mainly concerned is with human health and the planet’s health (which includes all living things in the ecosystem of course); Everything else other than health will follow naturally if there is room for it / if they are meant to be in whatever capacity they are meant to exist in.What happens when there isn’t enough diverted to people for health / living well (wellness)? People get sick, violence occurs, human-productivity lessens, and worse – the systems that perpetuate machine-growth flourish faster than they naturally can, or should, if you want a healthy ecosystem to evolve forward in a healthy way.This mimics industrial-complexes, which there are many, and are issues that still need to be solved by directing resources and therefore managing the speed and direction they take.I see the solution as some sort of a communist social layer, with capitalism layer on top.

    3. btrautsc

      i’ve been really concerned with this topic since I was a teenager. its good to hear some counter arguments for concern… it definitely begs greater discussion.

  9. Seenator

    Great line by Albert about not to be too down or up on any given day.Reminds of this Glenn Kelman point:What disgusted the ancient Romans about barbarians was their lack of discipline. Oxford Professor Peter Heather writes, β€œAs far as a Roman was concerned, you could easily tell a barbarian by how he reacted to fortune. Give him one little stroke of luck, and he would think he had conquered the world. But, equally, the slightest setback would find him in deepest despair…” This is why, 2,000 miles from home, several hundred Romans could slaughter several thousand barbarians.

  10. awaldstein

    Nice one Albert and Rohan!I’m a fan of Continuations and great to see a live person behind the posts and the comments.

    1. EHeathence

      I’m a fan of Continuations and great to see a live person behind the posts and the comments.

      1. albert

        Thanks. When I am back from vacation (shortly) there will be new posts on Continuations!

        1. Rohan

          I don’t recall seeing a detailed post on the healthcare wiki idea though, Albert?

    2. Rohan

      Thanks a lot, Arnold! πŸ™‚

  11. Matt A. Myers

    Heading back home from The Yoga Conference in Toronto – hopefully bus has wifi and can look forward to watching a discussion between two people I like! πŸ™‚

    1. Rohan

      Awwwww πŸ™‚

  12. takingpitches

    I like this one:how lightweight ties can provide powerful interactions

  13. jason wright

    i wonder what Albert thinks of the Berlin ‘scene’?

    1. albert

      I don’t really know it well enough to comment.

  14. Aviah Laor

    Wow. So many ideas, thoughts and issues in one short interview. Maybe IPO/exit is not the best outcome or goal? Loads of regulations and tax issues which are really optimised for the past century? Less work? Growth as we know it maybe gone? Sellers change to reflect that? “Work incumbents”, organizations keeping jobs pers-se vs. technology?What an industry. You go 100,000 ft. to encompass most of the planet problems, and the next moment dive all the way down to restart that mis-configured web server. Wow.

  15. Richard

    As to a medical diagnostic data base (AI/ML Driven) …. It you think about the major segments of healthcare delivery (emergency care/ hospital care/ ambulatory care) , physician makeup and training (primary care/specialists and residents, interns and attendings), the demographic of patients (beginning of life, midlife, and end of life) , the medical method of care (collect data, diagnose, treat ), the efficacy of medicine and surgeries to treat conditions (Y = a + bx +e**(focus on the e)) , and where the money and hours are spent in healthcare, you’ll find that diagnosis of disease is NOT the major cost or health-pain-point of the healthcare system. Not to say there aren’t segments where diagnosis software can be useful (radiology), but it hard to make a strong case for diagnostic software being the panacea most make it out to be.

  16. markslater

    he got me with twilio!

  17. Aaron Klein

    This has been on my to-watch list since it appeared on Rohan’s blog and now that is doubly so.

    1. Rohan

      We have Roy Baumeister on today, Aaron. Do check it out if you have a spare couple of minutes. Sure you’ll like..He’s the person who pioneered research into the concept of willpower. Really interesting guy.

      1. Aaron Klein

        Cool! Thanks.

  18. Rohan

    Thank you so much for the shout out, Fred!Albert’s “you don’t know if a good day is a good day” has become a favorite maxim of late.For everyone else, do check out (website still in early beta) for interviews with Jerry Colonna, Brad Feld, and many others in this community like the JLM, Aaron, and William. πŸ™‚

  19. Tom Labus

    Congrats, Rohan. Good interview.And best of luck with your site/interviews.

    1. Rohan

      Thanks a lot, Tom! πŸ™‚

  20. Drew Meyers

    Nice interview Rohan. Loved Albert’s thoughts around “consuming & owning more” being broken. I couldn’t agree more.

  21. Semil Shah

    One thing I’ve noticed from many friends who have gone into VC full time is that they all comment about how “lonely” the job is. And, more competitive than they anticipated it would be. I think what helps individual VCs fight through this is to have a strong partnership, but as traditionally slow-moving institutions, many firms (sadly) don’t think about this, and as a result, we have poor leadership transitions and, ultimately, less teamwork (and fun) in venture.

  22. Philip Brown

    Great interview! To echo comments below I’m also a huge fan of your Continuations blog and so it’s good to be able hear your thoughts in a live interview setting. I particularly like the posts where you describe the projects you do with your son.