Video Of The Week: The UC Irvine Conversation

The Dean of the Computer Science and Statistics School (The Bren School) at UC Irvine is Hal Stern. Thirty four years ago in my freshman year at MIT, I was failing Differential Equations and Hal would tutor me as he watched the Celtics games in his room. With his helped I aced Differential Equations and went on to a fine career at MIT and beyond. The least I could do to pay him back was show up and give a talk at his school. I delivered that payback last Monday and it was a lot of fun.

It's a long video, almost an hour, but we cover a lot of topics near and dear to this community. So give it a watch this weekend if you can find the time.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Richard

    I had to revisit diffy Qs recently, it is widely used in finance (though thankfully you dont solve the equations analytically) The power of Monte Carlo simulations. Fred, thoughts on FB Home?

    1. fredwilson

      Haven’t tried it. FB is not part of my life. My kids are all iOS sontheyvarent on it. I do think Android home screen is very interesting real estate. Albert has a post on it here which I largely agree with…

      1. Richard

        Your comment in the video on the general theme of not putting to all your photo eggs in one basket, having redundancies etc., were where I thought you would be going with FB. When do you think this meme of digital diversification / backups hits the masses?

        1. LE

          “of not putting to all your photo eggs in one basket”If your photos are important to you then it’s not a big deal to manage your own backups of your photos locally and even with another backup to an offsite disk.Most important to keep in mind is that just because you think you have diversity in your backups if the two providers you are picking use the same infrastructure (say AWS) then there is also the chance that you could loose both (remote but possible).As anyone who has been around for a while can tell you you can read all the “we’ve got this figured out” blurbs on websites from whoever you are using but the truth is they don’t have it figured out and if everything is lost it will be your problem and not their problem. And there are plenty of ways to “lose your stuff” in ways that you haven’t even thought of yet.

          1. Richard

            i didn’t mean photos literally. What i had in mind is something that Fred mentioned in the video, once you become dependent on ‘one’ technology the you loose the power to disengage and the power to negotiate.


        FB and that home thingy takes us back to getting installed software with a hardware product. History repeating itself.


          Oops… “…getting extra installed software with…” Kinda’ like PCs have.

        2. Matt A. Myers

          Windows comes to mind..

  2. tyronerubin

    great, can’t wait to listen, thanks! My fav of the week:Elon Musk Ted talk…Jeffrey Hammerbacher on Big Data…Nick D’Aloisio talking about his Summly salewonderful to listen to such a bright 17 year old…Tom O’Reilly Create More Value Than You Capture…Sir Martin Sorrell keynote talk at The Fesitval of Media…John Doerr: 700 Investments, 192 IPOs, 375,000+ Jobs Created…Peter Thiel – You are Not a Lottery Ticket…would love to know any others talks or videos that people have enjoyed this week? thanks

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Welp, there goes my morning.

      1. tyronerubin

        worth it.

    2. Richard

      My morning walk is going to be a marathon. Thanks

      1. tyronerubin

        great audio rocks.

    3. Donna Brewington White

      All these in one week?!

      1. tyronerubin

        yip, listening in the background helps, don’t watch everything, lot of time just listen, like now I am listening to Fred’s video post.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          That’s how I “watch” video much of the time. I’m glad you responded because I unintentionally hit post before I was able to thank you for such an impressive list. Will definitely use it, but not in a week! :)Haven’t seen you on for awhile. I was on this morning after a hiatus and discovered that Q is now on staff as a community manager. Brilliant since she was already doing the job.

          1. tyronerubin

   blocked in South Africa, or possibly anywhere not in the US? used to use a VPN to access it but stopped. Was so hooked at a stage. p.s. Hope you well?

  3. Louis Hatzis

    Differential equations can make and break futures 🙂

  4. btrautsc

    great interview.Here is my real question though… How about Melo? last 3 gms 43.6 ppg on 64% shooting… AND 54% from 3… ridiculous.

    1. fredwilson

      As my son josh says “he is el fuego”

      1. JamesHRH

        Colin Cowherd on ESPN hates his game. its like he is on a mission to prove that you don’t need to rebound or pass.Felton is going to get a big raise. Because he makes everybody else (and himself a scorer), he pulls the doubles off of Melo. That makes it a vicious circle for defenders……they know they need to shade to Melo, but when everybody else starts to score they get stuck between what to do….and bingo it works.

        1. fredwilson

          the one place Melo rebounds incredibly well is on his own misses, particularly in the paint

        2. btrautsc

          the knicks are a weirdly good team, in that they are notoriously low in rebounding & assists – which are typical indicators of a good team… but they have a few PER studs in Melo, Chandler, JR, Stat…Melo’s offensive prowess really determines how the offense is run (it was apparent in Denver), when he is on – it works really well.


    All that schooling and still only a 1 out of 3 hit rate on investments?! Then I see various people worth hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars and they didn’t finish college. Hmm… I don’t know what to take away from that.

    1. William Mougayar

      But if you look at the upside part on the 30% that work, and the learnings/job creations for the other 2/3, it’s all very positive, really.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      People who don’t finish college generally realize you can’t be on the path if your plan is to get ahead of the hoard, which is where you go for competitive advantage, etc.. And this way you can also focus learning on what’s most important to your specific endeavor(s).

    3. LE

      All that schooling and still only a 1 out of 3 hit rate on investments?! Then I see various people worth hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars and they didn’t finish college. Hmm… I don’t know what to take away from that.People who do traditionally well in school in certain areas are sometimes forced down a particular road. An example might be someone who is good at math and really excels and it is assumed that they will follow a path like engineering or similar so they end up going to the best schools and getting advanced degrees and so they are never going to open the corner store and pursue entrepreneurship or take a chance on anything since they have a lock on a good career out of the block. Or maybe a better example is a man who is 7 feet tall and it’s assumed he is going to pursue a career in basketball as opposed to medicine (forgetting whether he has the academic credentials we are just talking about what older people who influence younger people advocate as the obvious career that they should pursue.)I know people who fit the mold of what you are trying to say (say a man with a high school education who opened up a chain of stores in the mall and was successful and can think of many others.)In any case the fact that you say “all that schooling” seems to imply that the fact that someone has schooling means that they are either a) smarter than people that don’t have schooling (because you are not smart if you don’t go to college?) or b) they learn something in school that will allow them to pick winners or c) they meet or are surrounded by people in school that allow them to make connections or pick better winners or d) fill in the rest.

      1. mbob

        Probably the best example of your point is the recently deceased, much missed Stanford Ovshinsky. He started as a machinist, his parents were junk dealers. Nobody “pointed” him at cellular wall properties and yet here we are, thin film amorphous conductors and all. The rapid, heavily promoted emergence of “ed tech” troubles me because it makes little provision for the Stan Ovshinsky’s of the world. We are poorer for it.


        As my last sentence states. I really am not sure what to take away from the situation. But I was thinking when posting is there a “best approach” to making wheel barrows full of money? The reason I wonder that is because money is what makes this world go around!When I look at the schooling situation I think why would anyone pay to have the goal of being taught to be a salary slave? I’m all for *education* but schooling says you come here for 4 years then you get a *job*. But, thousands or more take that route only to *not get a job*. Then you see people who didn’t go to school and they failed along the way but they eventually succeeded *vey very very well*.I’m not making any judgements on this because I truely don’t have enough information to make a conclusion about which is best. Except one thing a CEO said to me was this “I’ll take a street smart person over a college educated person any day of the week.”I’m looking for the hundreds of millions so I’m wanting to find the right forumula. Are you in the boat with me?

    4. Richard

      The idea that knowledge (or as you call “schooling”) is something you do to improve your batting average is outdated. Feed the mind. It is hungry.


        Oh, I’m all for life long education. I was just talking about “schooling” and that’s why I labeled it as such. Yes, the mind is hungry and it’s great to feed it. The question is what’s the best *food*?

    5. Donna Brewington White

      There is no sound logic in the question being implied. Anything you take away from this would be based on assumption and conjecture.


      in fairness to fred, he’s probably worth 9 figures.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Yeah, doing the math simply as “1 out of 3 investments” is doing the wrong math. Cute name BTW.


          That depends on what your objective is. I was talking about 1 out of 3 and being highly educated. If uneducated people are worth hundreds or thousands of millions why did Fred need to spend so much time on education? Seems there is a formula that works better that other don’t need to spend a hundred grand to learn. Just questions to think about.


        Excellent! I’ve always wondered what Fred was worth. Doesn’t make sense though. If *he* is worth hundreds of millions why would he work like he does? He know’s that a clear mind makes for better decisions. Brad Feld knows it and he’s friends with Fred. I’m sure he’s mentioned it.

        1. fredwilson

          Ah. The subject of today’s post

  6. William Mougayar

    So that’s what you were doing when you made that April Fool’s round-trip.- “A large market can solve a lot of problems.” (from an investment point of view)My reaction is that it also creates interesting challenges when you end up growing and capturing that large market.- “It’s tough to buy yourself into a market.”- “We constantly get surprised.”- “Focus on the VC-Entrepreneur relationship, and ask the VC Why they are investing in your company, i.e. to ensure alignment and having the right reasons.”

    1. PhilipSugar

      And Fred says I have good one liners!

    2. JamesHRH

      We want to know ‘Why’ you are doing this…….golden.

  7. jason wright

    hedge funds – ‘heads i win, tails you lose’.

  8. Robert Metcalf

    It helps when you can make the connection between a differential equation and the physical system it actually represents. Always helped me “picture” the 3D function (heat dissipating through a plate, dynamic response to impact, etc).I was fortunate enough to see this live and chat with Fred afterward. It was funny to see the VCs/Angels in the crowd gather and question the “success” of USV’s investment in Twitter. Don’t know if any of them had ever used it. The financial returns aren’t obvious, but from the perspective of being a disruptive, empowering tool that’s helped support revolutions and freedom of speech around the world, that investment has been incredible.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      If you’ve ever advertised on Twitter, the financial returns to Twitter are pretty obvious. It’s super-easy to advertise, if you use the basic defaults (much simpler than Google ads), and you burn through $$ pretty quick. I’m pretty sure Twitter is raking in plenty of revenue now. That doesn’t mean it will be a great investment for the retail schlubs who buy it at the IPO — it depends on how Twitter is priced — but I’m sure it will turnout to be a spectacular investment for USV and other early venture investors.

    2. JamesHRH

      I have to tell you this story…..I was walking out of Differential Equations 266 at the Univ of Saskatchewan with a mature student of Russian heritage. I was not making the connection you have described above and struggling on all fronts.He, however, is right on your track. But, he says to me: “James, when we are working in 3 variables, I am able to picture the surface that the equation is describing. It is doable. But, when we add the fourth variable, I struggle with the changes required…..the idea that the physical surface changes in some way… is just a struggle.”I think to myself – “I need to find a way to closing out my Math degree and going on to do something where I have some aptitude.”In a way, I am eternally grateful to him for putting me striaght on how deeply lost I was.

  9. Robert Metcalf

    Hopefully you can pop up to Caltech the next time you come to LA. The entrepreneurial spirit is growing there and I’m sure Fred’s insights and attention would be very well received. Too many of these smart kids just going into high frequency trading and waste their talents extracting value from the markets.

    1. fredwilson

      i will do that. i plan on spending a lot more time in LA in the coming years

      1. Donna Brewington White

        YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I’ve heard rumors.

  10. Matt A. Myers

    @fredwilson:disqus – your interview responses are getting more concise. 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      is that a bad thing or a good thing?

      1. Matt A. Myers

        A good thing – if you like information presented in a clear way. :)concise – “Giving a lot of information clearly and in a few words; brief but comprehensive.”

  11. Philip Brown

    Great talk Fred! I particularly like the bits where you talk about the things that you have learned over the years as a VC and how the big learning moments are often through making a mistake.I often find that the personal stories and lessons learned from talks like this, are often a bigger takeaway for me, over more tangible knowledge like “how to approach VCs” or “how to scale a management team”.I guess this blog is like a hyper detailed biography of those lessons over the last couple of years.Wouldn’t it be cool if one day you could produce a biography from all the passive data that you collect over the years. Sentiment analysis of tweets, location data on your travels through Foursquare and the plethora of data that Facebook amounts all the current and future services would make a hugely interesting repository for the personal “journey” of someone you are interested in.Sure beats births, marriages and deaths!

  12. Donna Brewington White

    I finally was able to listen; great interview, well worth the time.I was struck by the “why” question both in terms of considering an investment and in considering an investor. A surprising but brilliant question from the entrepreneur to the investor. Simon Sinek’s TED talk on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” (golden circle) is a great example of how “why” makes all the difference.

  13. andyidsinga

    at about 11:20 – love the part about demonstrating that you can build a thing and prototyping being more important than planning

  14. andyidsinga

    at about 13:40 : like the part about _why_ someone is starting a business