Video Of The Week: My Talk With Arrington

I talked to Mike Arrington this past week at TechCrunch Disrupt. We covered some fun topics, most of which will be well known to the AVC community. It's just shy of 30mins.


Comments (Archived):

  1. AlexBangash

    Wow … great idea. USV is way ahead of the trends amongst other VC’s (real time web, engaged communities) and it is one of the few VC’s that is not investing in derivative, copy cat ideas.

  2. jason wright

    it’s what people don’t say that interests me in an interview, the what i think they’re thinking but not saying, and why they’re not saying it.

    1. fredwilson


  3. David Smuts

    I like the point you make about VC sheep and USV differentiating itself by looking for what the flock are not, ie.., being ahead of the flock or looking for the ridiculous. Great insight given to the audience on pitching and presenting to VC and to Fred Wilson in particular.

  4. JimHirshfield

    “Crazy” seems to be theme of this one. In a good way.

    1. jason wright

      he seemed a little preoccupied with the theme

    2. David Smuts

      Yeah, i would like to see that terminology defined and clarified a bit more. Hopefully an article from Fred on this.Just to add one important comment though in regards to mental illness. Unfortunately there is a lot of stigma about mental health problems. Someone can have a mental illness and be a very wonderful and successful CEO. It shouldn’t be a bar.Psychopathy on there other hand should be a bar, and by the way is not a classified “mental illness’ per se. I say this as a qualified psychotherapist.I’m a bit disappointed that the interview and conversation around crazy and mental illness projected some negative associations. Perhaps Fred could clarify that for us.

      1. fredwilson

        I am sorry for that. Mike kept pushing it.

        1. David Smuts

          It’s an important topic (and oft misunderstood) that I speak up about whenever I get the opportunity to do so, and I would love for you to expand on it some day.There is a huge difference between personality and mental health. Someone could be free of any underlying mental illness yet their personality can be very “unhealthy” or even destructive and I believe this is the type of person you were referring to.Alternatively someone could have a classified mental illness (depression, anxiety, bi-polar etc..,) and yet can function extraordinarily well.We would perish the thought of discriminating against an individual for a physical disability, similarly we should also have a mature and compassionate attitude in regards to mental illness.It’s more than likely USV and others will have very successful CEOs running their portfolio companies who have a classified mental illness and which the VC has no idea of, yet are coping with that perfectly well and running very good organisations.

          1. LE

            We would perish the thought of discriminating against an individual for a physical disability, similarly we should also have a mature and compassionate attitude in regards to mental illness.I think the devil is in the details with this although it always sounds nice to appear to allow all people opportunity unless you are the one that has to take the hit if someone doesn’t do their job.The rigors of some jobs require full mental and physical abilities and if you are handicapped it’s entirely possible that you will not be able to fulfill those responsibilities. Each case is different.



    3. William Mougayar

      Arrington focused too much on that topic & kept returning to it. That was a low segment of the interview & it wasted time. He was going around in a circle whereas he should have moved on.



      2. JimHirshfield

        Trying to be amusing, I think. But it’s not supposed to be a comedy show.

        1. LE

          Arrington’s job (like Cramer) is to educate and entertain as well as inform. Also to have a good time and make money.The fact (as I pointed out in my other comment) that Arrington has this quality directly played into his ability to make Techcrunch a success. Seat of the pants he understands or was able to operate on that level and get everyone’s interest and attention with whatever way he handled things over there. Or by the writers that he choose.Same with Howard Stern. I haven’t listened to him in years but I remember when he hired John Melendez after hearing that he stuttered. The following is from wikipedia and I remember this very well:The show’s producer, Gary Dell’Abate, mentioned Melendez’s stuttering to Howard Stern who, without seeing him and even before he was interviewed, told the producer to hire him.[6]Perhaps it was the wrong thing to do with the particular audience (or maybe not I don’t know) but he’s at a point where it doesn’t matter to him and he is going to just be himself. Does he really care if the person in the audience or watching doesn’t get the info that they want? Why should he care at all?

          1. JimHirshfield

            Well that’s why I don’t go to too many of these events anymore. They’re definitely entertaining, but that’s not what I’m paying for.

          2. fredwilson

            Hardly anyone does. It seems they are mostly blog post and video generation events now

          3. William Mougayar

            … and tweets generation! Most of the event sessions were live streamed anyways. That’s how I followed yours & a handful of others – Gurley, Dens, McCue & Dixon. Curious why they didn’t do a backstage with you.

          4. fredwilson

            I had to rush out to a meeting

          5. JimHirshfield

            So true. Case-in-point, this very awesome blog post. 🙂

  5. awaldstein

    Great salespeople get you talking. It’s that simple.

    1. E cigarette

      yes , that is right, I agree, some of his talking has something to do with the sales

  6. JamesHRH

    N time for videos today – too buy catching up on NbA game 6s.Courtesy – of the 351 NbA players who have played in more than 50 playoff games, Melo ranks 351st in winning percentage (17-37).For your sake, let’s hope the monkey is off his back.

    1. fredwilson

      There was a moment last night as the Knicks were collapsing late in the fourth quarter and Melo was trying to do it all by himself. He called for the ball from Felton and I think Felton had seen enough. Raymond dribbled around Melo using him as a pick even though Melo hadn’t set it, then dribbled into the lane, got the defense to descend on him and then tossed it back out to Melo who was unguarded at the three point line. He swished it and that was the end of the collapse. I hope Melo watches that play a thousand times this weekend. Basketball is a team game.

      1. takingpitches

        That 20-0 run had shades of David Ortiz in game 5 and frightened me that the nonsense comparison to the 2004 ALCS being thrown around in bean town had something to it.

      2. pointsnfigures

        The beauty of the simple pick and roll has been lost. It leads to a pass and layup, a layup by the dribbler, or a nice midrange jumper-or even a kick out to a third player who can make something happen. Great basketball is like great jazz. The song is set, but the riffs happen and everyone reacts together.

        1. JamesHRH

          You must not be watching much NBA. 80% of the teams employ pick and roll or pick & kick sets.Very few teams grind it out with big post players (Indiana, LA)

          1. pointsnfigures

            I haven’t watched the NBA as closely lately. I need to start watching it more because I love to watch players like Kevin Durant etc. They play beautifully. I was spoiled watching Michael Jordan all those years. Poetry on the hardwood he was.

          2. William Mougayar

            Good luck vs. the Nets this eve.

          3. pointsnfigures

            It’s amazing the Bulls made it this far. They are so beat up. They have shown huge heart this season.AND THEY WON. Amazing. Miami next…..

          4. William Mougayar

            congrats. vs. miami is a toughie

          5. Drew Meyers

            Gotta love Nate Rob (ps: i’m from seattle area)

          6. CJ

            and done. At least game 1. This is going to be interesting.

          7. William Mougayar

            And they own again vs. Miami. Nice. (Whereas the leafs lost game #3 vs. the bruins, but it was the first home playoff game since 2004)

          8. JamesHRH

            NBA is definitely at a high point. The best players are amazing – Wade, LeBron, Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Kobe, Melo.The game is very open with lots of skill. Not the grinding post play of Bad Boy Detroit or Ewing & the Knicks.

          9. CJ

            I think I disagree with it being a highpoint but I would definitely say it’s recovering from the post-Jordan slump.

        2. kidmercury

          Stockton/malone perfected the pick and roll. Youngsters these days need to watch some of those clips to get schooled.

          1. pointsnfigures

            Could you imagine someone like Kevin Durant coming off the wing with someone like Malone to set a pick for him? The big men today need to learn from people like Malone, Jabbar, and others to play. The think it’s all brute force.

      3. JamesHRH

        Didn’t see the clip & was out last night.Written reports did not describe the play as you did. Sounds like Felton saved the day.

  7. takingpitches

    “[great entrepreneurs] will listen to you but won’t take orders”Brilliant

    1. pointsnfigures

      coachable. that’s the word.


    Good crazy and bad crazy! That’s great..Do you think, Fred, that VCs need to be good crazy?

    1. fredwilson


  9. pointsnfigures

    Interesting that he spent so much time on the pitch. Everyone will try to manufacture a pitch that hits the high notes from this vid. I agree with a lot of what you say about pitching. But the best pitches combine all of that, and a connection or relationship happens.Agree on the marketplace model. I see a lot of things that remind me of the Rice Exchanges in Japan from the 1100’s. is essentially an exchange. Exchange models work when they disintermediate a lot of distribution-and put customers closer to prices in markets.Arrington should take a drive through the midwest sometime. People think it’s flat (and much of it is.) But, a rolling prairie on a summer morning or evening can be beautiful. Plus, Chicago has a high tech scene that is rolling now. No longer a Sissyphus type experience.

    1. kidmercury

      Chitown represent!!! Folks, its got all the perks of a big city. Half the price of nyc or sf. #nuffsaid

      1. CJ

        In the house! It’s cleaner than NYC too! No offense Fred!

    2. takingpitches

      The geographical arrogance was amazing.Fred’s response was refreshing – why would we make them move.

      1. pointsnfigures

        Moving them might put them in a situation where they would fail. Companies sometimes exist in certain places for really good reasons.

        1. jason wright

          …for really good, and often essential, reasons – necessity is the mother of invention, as has been said many times.

      2. kidmercury

        I enjoy geographical arrogance — makes for great beefing — although unfortunately i don’t think arrington was expressing that. There are still some advantages tied to geography that cause some to move or insist upon others moving.

      3. jason wright

        the hinterland, a great void, a heart of darkness. It’s an enduring theme in western culture. the ‘literate’ metro crowd – how little they really want to know.

  10. Cam MacRae

    Hmmm. Don’t see the video at all.

  11. kidmercury

    Fred youre def not a sheep.I enjoyed arringtons line of questioning about crazy. Its like the old saying that the only difference between genius and insanity is success.Internet isnt contrarian anymore but it’s still going to succeed. As a result I think valuations are generally too high for a lot of the standard concepts.It saddens me greatly to say it, but I dont think anyone can beat the heat out of the east. knicks game isnt polished enough. Heat are well rested. Spurs are the only possible contender.

    1. fredwilson

      If the Thunder had Westbrook I would argue with you

      1. kidmercury

        Agree totally….even if they had harden I think theyd have a shot too, but with just durant I think it will be tough

    2. Drew Meyers

      I wish the scenario you state wasn’t true..but it is. I don’t see anyone stopping the Heat, short of an injury to Lebron.

  12. jmcaddell

    Fred, I just published my ” Mistake Bank” book and your Obama o’s story is featured, as well as one of Albert’s. The themes are highly aligned with the discussions on AVC. I’d love to send you an electronic copy for you to read. how should I get that to you? regards, John

    1. fredwilson

      Can you send me a PDF?

      1. jmcaddell

        sure…pdf or epub, if you’d prefer to read on kindle. let me know your email here or send it to John at caddellinsightgroup dot com if you’d rather.

        1. fredwilson

          I can load PDF into my kindle on my nexus 7

          1. jmcaddell

            ok, I sent you pdf and .mobi, that may render better on your kindle app. bit either will work.



    1. LE


      1. jason wright

        i’ve read there’s an ongoing complaint about this and that

      2. Guest has more info



  14. LE

    What’s interesting is the part (which I’m at now) where Fred talks about things that people do when pitching. The example is something like “well I graduated college in …” and then 20 minutes later they get to the actual idea – Fred then says “people actually do things like that”.I think one of the qualities that people need, to be an entrepreneur, which while certainly not fitting the pattern 100%, is that you are able to get up to speed on something that you have no clue about using very little information very quickly. But following traditional methods as well as being creative. Or at least have some partners that have this quality.So if the objective is “how am I going to pitch a VC with my idea when I’ve never done that before” you put some thought and effort and time into thinking about the problem in your brain before you go in cold and pitch the VC. And practice as well.I remember a few years ago talking to a father who told me that his daughter was going for an interview trying to get into a good school.While I felt that she stood a decent chance of getting in I suggested that she try to do some interviews in advance at a few schools that she didn’t care to attend as practice. Isn’t that obvious? So she could get the lay of the land and get comfortable and do post mortems on what worked and what didn’t work in her approach and presentation. The father wasn’t willing to have the daughter do that he kind of brushed off the idea as to much effort and not needed.

    1. fredwilson

      That was great advice you gave. We make all our kids do mock interviews

  15. LE

    If Karp said “comments suck” as a reason for not wanting comments did he ever say and/or defend (forgetting for a second whether he needed to explain himself to the investor at all) why he thought that comments suck other than it was his vision not to have comments? To me the reasons are important. Having a “this is the way I feel and that’s that” attitude to me is very parental and old school “just believe me because I’m me”. What’s so special about Karps “unique” perspective about things that makes him right about that other than the fact that he is King and simply (if I am understanding what you have said) “feels that way”?

    1. fredwilson

      Yes he did. He has always said he wants the user experience on Tumblr to be positive and never negative. So there are likes (up votes) but never down votes. He feels that comments bring out trolls and negativity and did not want that to be a native part of Tumblr.However you can add disqus to a tumblog and get comments that way but they do not show up in the native dashboard and therefore are not part of the core experience I do that on my tumblog at fredwilson.vcI think tumblr’s decision not to have comments natively helped disqus a lot in the early days so David’s stubbornness helped me doubly because it led to a uniquely positive social media platform which has been a fantastic investment for USV and also gave disqus an early boost

      1. andyidsinga

        re “positive and never negative” …that is very cool.ive mentioned to a few people lately that i had an recent epiphany about foursquare tips vs yelp reviews .. where tips have a positive bias and reviews have a negative bias ( and incentive to game the system )creating an environment that ‘defaults to positive’ is awesome!

        1. kidmercury

          i enjoy negative systems because i think they are priceless in terms of problem solving, but i agree that strictly from a business standpoint in terms of getting users and making money, positive bias is the way to go. with blogs/comments though i think it depends on the original poster as like forever attracts like. #lawofattraction

          1. andyidsinga

            totally agree re blog comments ..and hence were here 🙂

  16. LE

    With respect to Mike’s comments on Walt Disney. Crazy is not a blood testable disease and also can form after a certain age, a certain amount of time, or by circumstances, drug use (legal or illegal) or even power that people have which results in people treating them differently or being less likely to challenge them. So their brain can get more wacky over time. Or they are surrounded by people who think like they so they never have a need to consider a different way of thinking. [1]This is actually something that people who are young and not married yet don’t realize with respect to the divorce rate and statements that “it will never happen to them”. The person that you marry doesn’t always remain the same person 5 or 20 years later.[1] From the journal of personal observation of various people over many years, a sport of mine.

  17. LE

    This sessions shows that Mike (who I know and had dealt with back when he was at is a total “if it bleeds it leads” person who is interested in dirt on people and human nature, psychology and is easily bored. Which is what to me makes watching this interesting and also why reality TV is successful. It’s the interpersonal stories and especially wanting to see the flaws in someone who has achieved success. People love that shit. I love that shit. I find it interesting. It’s like a sport to me.Mike was inpatient when he first asked you about you by his body language, tone etc. but became totally animated and interested when discussing “crazy”. Like Carson discussing sex with zsa zsa gabor or some other starlet back in the day. You could see him light up.This totally dovetails with the Jennifer Allen incident and how Mike even had a girlfriend like that to begin with:…Some people (including myself) find people with mental issues interesting, challenging and never boring. So even if they identify mental illness in a person it actually draws them to it in a counter productive way.

    1. William Mougayar

      “if it bleeds it leads”. I got to remember that one 🙂

  18. Aaron Klein

    My favorite part is Arrington’s reveling in his ignorance of middle America and your unwillingness to take the bait.As you know, I live in California but I find that attitude annoying. I know Michael was primarily trying to be an entertainer (he does that well) but to me, it spoke volumes about your values.

    1. LE

      “My favorite part is Arrington’s reveling in his ignorance of middle America and your unwillingness to take the bait.”I was helping someone the other day with buying a somewhat valuable domain and the domain was owned by a middle aged nobody in the midwest.The buyer (who I was helping) was someone in Manhattan that belongs on the society page. The words they used to describe the person who had the domain were really put downs it was funny (they had spoken to them a few years ago and googled etc.. It didn’t bother me at all I’m certainly not someone who doesn’t put people down occasionally all the time in all honesty. But not to complete strangers (which is what I was to this person).What was interesting was that the buyer thought they would just call the seller up and talk woman to woman and get the person to give up the domain. As if this seller wouldn’t have the intelligence to see she was dealing with someone with money and feel that she was being taken advantage of. Bad move to underestimate people you are negotiating with (which is not the same as making fun of them if that makes you feel better).They may be idiots and you may be right but don’t assume that and play your game any differently. I’m sure there is a sports analogy for this with respect to teams getting licked.

      1. Aaron Klein

        Well put.If I was Ben Milne of Dwolla in Des Moines, Iowa…or Andy Swan of Voomly in Louisville, Kentucky…Arrington would be out no matter how interested he was after public comments like that.

        1. Drew Meyers

          Totally agreed.

        2. LE

          Attacks like that aren’t targeted to an individual they are targeted to a perception that people have of people from a certain area.Many people think people from New York are brash and rude.And guess what there are probably more brash and rude people in NYC than, say, from a typical midwest town (source: Journal of “it just is that’s why”).I wouldn’t personally draw the line there. After all people from NY make plenty of “NJ” jokes and people from Manhattan make plenty of “Brooklyn” jokes. To me it’s just a cost of doing business. I wouldn’t have said it most likely.Lastly Arrington has been attacked much more viciously than what he said or inferred. All sorts of things (about him being gay (used to let young startup guys visit his house to pitch him they would just show up) being heavy (called porky, fat, pudgy) and much more.The problem with having to worry about what you say is that you will then begin to doubt what you think and your brain will have a hard time thinking as effectively. It’s like a whole layer of abstraction.

          1. Aaron Klein

            I hear you but even if you’ve been the victim, I don’t think stereotyping is a great choice. And there’s a difference between stumbling into it somewhat inadvertently, and reveling in it like he did.That being said, I still like the guy. But absent knowing his reputation as an entertainer, it would make me question his values.

          2. PhilipSugar

            More offensive to me is when he says: Tell them you’re Fred fucking Wilson and they need to move, that comes from the heart.You don’t like Des Moines? Whatever, and I think that might be hyperbole. But to have that arrogant attitude. That is when people enjoy watching you fall.

          3. Aaron Klein


          4. CJ

            Think Barry Bonds.

    2. William Mougayar

      Here’s a recent article on Silicon Prairie citing other companies in addition to Dwolla.

    3. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Yorkshire – well, anywhere apart from London, in the UK – is looked at in a similar condescending way by many over here.

  19. kidmercury

    one thing i’ve been meaning to share with the fredland community is the cyprus bail-in in which deposits at bank accounts were basically stolen to pay for the insolvency of the bank. all the rules are in place for this to be the model for when banks fail in other countries. ellen brown has a great article on this over on huffpo: http://www.huffingtonpost.c…if you have more than 250k in a bank account in the US, which many of you or your businesses likely do, you are at risk. FDIC insurance for beyond 250k expired at the start of 2013. even if you have less than 250k you may still be at risk as FDIC does not have an unlimited budget and it is unclear what will happen if the fund is all used up.of course crisis is just another word for opportunity, and fortune favors the prepared. #bitcoin #gold #altcurrencies

    1. LE

      “all the rules are in place for this to be the model for when banks fail in other countries.”I agree with you on this one. It’s similar to the once unthinkable idea that we could default on our debt or that it wouldn’t be rated at the highest. Or that people wouldn’t file bankruptcy so easily.All you need to know was that game “musical chairs” that you played as a kid. Just make sure you get one of the chairs. Let the other guys be asleep or go down playing with the band being honorable and all that shit.”you may still be at risk”The only good news here is that if they were to not be able to pay it would be a “cents on the dollar thing”. So you could conceivably lose something but you wouldn’t lose everything. Even with having more than, say, 250k in one bank if it defaults it’s not like you loose 100% of anything over 250k. YMMV. It’s fairly easy to get around that anyway. It’s been much easier to manage cash that you keep in banks anyway since you no longer have to perseverate over the nominal interest they are paying. Years ago it was much different.All in all though I like the risk profile (not opportunity, but less risk) of having dollars in a bank vs. gambling in the stock market. Sure money loses buying power but imagine if you had bought Apple at $700.

      1. kidmercury

        in cyprus all amounts over 100k were converted to shares of the bank of cyprus. i expect these shares to become worthless.stock trading accounts are not safe either, since brokerage accounts co-mingle funds. i’m in the process of moving all my long-term stocks to direct registration.there is also the issue of time. futures trading broker mf global collapsed in november of 2011. some customers have still not received all their money back. while it now appears that they will receive it all back, there are some who sold their claim for 90% of their account balance (thus taking a 10% loss, not counting time loss) last year out of a need for cash or just fears of losing it all.

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          You should see what’s happening in Spain right now re: foreign nationals who have settled out there – we have a few friends lucky enough (sic) to have retired out there (in simpler times) … they have been told that they now they have to declare ALL their global assets or face punitive taxes/fines of up to 150% of their global assets, once identified.Crazy times.

  20. Matt A. Myers

    Loving the 1-page slide idea. Takes a lot of weight off – and forces conversation to start.

  21. vruz

    Is anybody uploading this somewhere streamable?

  22. E cigarette

    I have listened to their talking for hours, and I think he point is good and very sensable

  23. Carl Rahn Griffith

    ‘Shy’ and Arrington in the same article … not something you see every day 😉

  24. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Regarding too much biographical info: Mark Suster’s post about this was an eye-opener for me, in that he says he *needs* to know who I am and why I’m qualified to be starting this business *before* he can listen to the pitch.I’m curious if your opinion is really opposite to his? Or would you say a certain amount of bio is good, as long as it’s relevant?

    1. fredwilson

      every investor is different. i always say “this is what works for me” when i give this kind of advice.for me, i want to know all of that after i find out what you are doing. if what you are doing is not interesting to me, then the rest is irrelevant.

  25. Mark Essel

    Hey cool, got twenty minutes in before I had to go but appreciated the VC perspective in pitching. Will certainly share.

  26. jason wright

    is ‘Arrington’ a brand?

  27. kidmercury

    I love that aiken quote, so true!

  28. Matt A. Myers

    Or if you have to ram it down their throats, it won’t be worth it to most people to attempt..