Lessons Learned

Sometimes I think we all are forced to learn the hard lessons first hand and that there is no other way.

And then I come across a post like this and am reminded that the Internet/Blogging/Generosity of Others can change that dynamic and is changing that dynamic.

Ryan Sarver had one of the most challenging jobs at Twitter during some of the most challenging years for Twitter. He joined the product team in 2009 and found himself managing the API and "platform" aspects of Twitter. Back then the API had been widely adopted but the business model and terms of use were not well defined. Ryan stepped right into that s**t.

And so he's writing a series of blog posts about what he learned in the four years he was in that role. His first post is What Is A Platform?  Next up is Trust and Predictability. That should be a good one.

If there is a platform aspect to the business you are building, I believe these posts are must reads. I learned so much watching Twitter wrestle with and figure out the platform challenges and it informs a lot of the advice I give entrepreneurs on this matter. I can't think of anyone better to lay all of this out in black and white and let us all learn from his experiences. Thanks Ryan.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    The platform/marketplace piece is the part that I think about lots.Marketplaces provide the market and the transaction piece. Twitter doesn’t really provide either really although it appears that Ryan is implying that cards does.This discussion alone may occupy my day.BTW–great to see that I”m not the only tech guy with ‘wine’ as in the top 5 list of stuff that gets me going.

    1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      awaldstein I thought you may be interested in reading this …some prof from UCLAhttp://techcrunch.com/2013/…btw, there is a angel investor and wine guy from NJ who commented yesterday.

      1. awaldstein

        Thanks Kasi! Right in my sweet spot.I don’t agree with their basic premise and left my thoughts there as a comment.

        1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

          I don’t have much knowledge on what he is discussing but thought it would interest you and give a different perspective on communities.

    2. leigh

      I still like the idea of ecosystems vs. marketplaces (if ecosystem has it’s truer meaning vs. a bunch of bubbles connected in powerpoint blech)

      1. awaldstein

        The web is the ecosystem to Kickstarters marketplace as community there, at least, is wherever we are.So, yes, I’m with you on that.But marketplaces are a unique model as their core value is in funneling the market to the maker and simplifying the transaction.I don’t consider Twitter either a marketplace or a community although obviously a media platform.

    3. Matt A. Myers

      Twitter is a facilitator. Marketplaces also facilitate.That is their common element.

      1. awaldstein

        Facilitate means what?

        1. Matt A. Myers

          VerbMake (an action or process) easy or easier.

          1. awaldstein

            You bit ;)Then most every product, platform, community, whatever is this or want to be this.It’s like saying we all have a pulse–sure we do so….

          2. Matt A. Myers

            Hehehe.So, understand that and give something a pulse – allow it to facilitate. πŸ™‚

    4. Ryan Sarver

      The timeline is the marketplace. As content flows through the system, so does the merchandising for the applications that created it. It’s nice in that it becomes a very democratic way of deciding which apps get shown to users and it get’s shown in the context of the content they create. This was a HUGE driver of growth for both Instagram and Vine.

      1. fredwilson

        “the timeline is the marketplace”that’s going on my tumblog Ryan.

        1. JamesHRH

          This is a real stretch, at best.It is a cool sound bite, but what does it mean?First off, ‘timeline’ makes everyone think FB. No one uses ‘timeline’ outside of FB usage (sorry to go there πŸ˜‰ The FB timeline has dates and events in the UI, which is why everyone calls it a timeline (’cause that is what it is).Everyone calls Twitter a feed or stream. It contains tweets and links. I don’t think a network effect turns Twitter into anything other than a tweeting platform. Even if you did promoted tweets that led to flash sales, its still a promoted tweet, which is a paid message, which is advertising at its most fundamental.The idea that Twitter would build out a fulfilment backend to do some sort of Amazonian ‘1 Click’ impulse buying platform is way out there.I don’t go to Twitter to buy stuff, what could possibly cause me to give you the CC info I gave Amazon (a place I do go to buy stuff)?The idea that Twitter would lead you to a backend fulfilment site makes total sense…….but that is an advertising service that sells Promoted Tweets.No sale – you is what you is.

      2. awaldstein

        Great thoughts–Democratic self sorting merchandizing as marketplace. App creating their own context within the context of the content they create. Markets as self organizing entities, like cities.I’m there and need to chew on this a bit. I”m a believer in time as the pin of attention in flash communities but actually got a bit of pushback in the comments of my last post on this: Flash community as the new normal http://awe.sm/fHSQ5Do share links on above as you write, think about it. Right in the center of my blogging and work.

  2. leigh

    Defining platform as a multi-sided business is interesting but I’m not 100% I’m buying the argument around API’s being SaS vs. platform. Can’t they be both? Just different business models?

    1. Matt A. Myers

      A platform is solving a big problem, big enough that it requires more than a single feature solving a single problem. There are many products that solve a single feature, and so I wouldn’t classify those as platforms.Some big simple problems exist still and many highly contextualized problems exist, though I don’t think enough people understand how to recognize them.The biggest platform that exists is the universe..

    2. William Mougayar

      I think an API gives you access to the platform. An API can be narrowly defined or amazingly rewarding. It depends on how the platform is instrumented for that API.

      1. Emily Merkle

        You’re right, William -an API allows you to communicate with the platform.

  3. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Platform to me is just like a ‘railway platform’ where anyone can open shop and sell anything…starting from street banana vendor to Barnes & noble…it just gives you space (programming ability) to put-up what you want.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Indeed, all platforms can be used for this – unless they prohibit it.

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        why I like to correlate with the railway platform is …the rails looks like the info-highway where different IP-computers (trains) come and connect to the vendor and go to next πŸ™‚

        1. Matt A. Myers

          That extension seems to work. πŸ™‚

    2. Richard

      This is close to a perfect definition. The platform is “platform” if and only if it is set up to allow a symbiotic experince for both between riders and vendors.

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        As a non-computer science guy that is how i view it … and I see the building blocks as API’s…wheel-API, Wall-API, Vending-desk-API likewise.

    3. JLM

      .+1MM for picture — well played.JLM.

    4. Ryan Sarver

      It’s a great example. In the book I recommend, Invisible Engines, one of the examples of “platforms” are shopping malls. Your example is a great one and plays on that same fundamental concept.

  4. William Mougayar

    Yes, I highlighted Ryan’s post yesterday in my newsletter and really liked the point about bolting Network Effects to the platform, as Twitter’s aha moment. I’d like to learn more about that aspect because it’s not that obvious.One could argue that Twitter’s platform is a pretty controlled one, from a developer’s point of view. When it comes to monetization, few developers are monetizing on top of it, when contrasted to Google’s.Beyond the platform, theoretically, there is an ecosystem. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series & started reading this book which Ryan references, Invisible Engines: http://mitpress.mit.edu/boo

    1. awaldstein

      Example of anyone monetizing within Twitter?Not as a funnel but a native monetization strategy. I don’t see transactions as natural to this or any of the social platforms.

      1. JamesHRH

        Ashton Kutcher gets paid to tweet about things?

        1. awaldstein

          Not native to me any more that someone getting paid to write a post for a trade magazine.

      2. William Mougayar

        They have announced about 5 partners for native advertising monetization via their API. HootSuite is one of them.

        1. awaldstein

          So they are a media site like Facebook?All I can say to that is Oy!Fan of Twitter and Facebook both, use both professionally for clients–neither has an iota of marketplace DNA.I’ve had some good successes with media models personally but nothing feels better that connecting a transaction rather than providing platforms for ads.

          1. William Mougayar

            That is huge though. It is what it is. Advertising is Twitter’s key revenue model for now.

          2. awaldstein

            No question but you should call it what it is which is advertising.

          3. William Mougayar

            Same for Google. Is Google an advertising company? Although it’s about 80% of its revenue, consumers don’t think of them that way.One think I hope Twitter gets better at is their own Search. I go to Google to find someone’s Twitter handle.

          4. awaldstein

            There is absolutely no question that Google is an ad platform.

          5. awaldstein

            Had a call and you raise something interesting.Strip aside everything and our relationship to Google (aka search) and Twitter are just completely different.Google is a tech company. Their value is finding stuff and they are astounding at it.Twitter is a network. There value is me and you. We are the content.The model for monetizing me and the model for monetizing a chunk of tech is different.Sure–info is info on one side. On the other, not at all.

          6. JamesHRH

            Google provides the web version of an old time media service – directories. Their revenue model is the same as the directories business: placement ( its even an old time ad speak for advertising units in print ).Twitter provides the web version of an analog mobile communication unit – paging. The revenue model for paging was service fee based.Yes, we all know that Twitter is bi-directional & a closed network, where as Google is a single direction service & an open service. I don’t think it matters – the model that served your analog inspiration will serve you online as well.I have argued here before that the proper revenue model for Twitter is to charge professional users a service fee, with the basis for ‘professional’ being nothing more complicated that your number of followers.I would gamble that 90% of account holders with over 1,000 (absolutely if you raised that to 10,000 or lowered the service fee far enough) followers would pay a monthly fee and I would also argue that 90% of those account holders would pay higher fees as you climbed a strata of follower thresholds (50,000, 100,000, 500,000 etc.)The outrageous skew in activity (so few tweeting so much) clearly shows who would pay to publish.They would be highly price insensitive.It would be a great project to work out.

          7. awaldstein

            Thanks for this really well reasoned response.I spent four years buying subscription based service customers and rolling them into a product line at KEYN and I have the model permanently etched in my brain. And I like it.But–I don’t think so.Analog models on digital platforms. I get what you are saying but the big change is not analog to digital its to an earned media model to me.I see them as advertising all the way. Facebook as well.

          8. JamesHRH

            I didn’t have time to get to this yesterday, posted a comment above (to Fred re: timeline is the platform) that argues advertising as well.I think they can do the service model and the promoted tweets in unison.I am with you, if you are down with recurring rev!

          9. JamesHRH

            Their customers think of them that way.

          10. William Mougayar

            Yes, of course. The B2B’s do, but the average Google user has no idea about the Google ad engine behind the “free search”.

          11. JamesHRH

            to my point above, my Mom never thought of SaskTel Yellow Pages as an ad company either……but that is what they were.Do you remember the anecdote from John Batelle’s book The Search…..where Schmidt tells Batelle that GOOG is not a media company and then, 6 months later at some other conference, he claps Batelle on the back and says ‘Man, the media busienss is awesome’….with, apparently, no recollection, ironic tone nor a knowing wink, etc. ?

          12. Drew Meyers

            “nothing feels better that connecting a transaction rather than providing platforms for ads”+1

      3. Richard

        In 2009, I tried (a little too early) to improve the tradeshow experience with tradeshowtweets. The monetization model was lead generation etc. I beta tested it in the health food space.

        1. awaldstein

          Thanks…Anyone doing anything using Twitter as a platform besides one-to-many follow the leader that is interesting as a economic model in your opinion?

          1. pointsnfigures

            Stocktwits is trying to be the information source within one domain, and then figuring out how to sell value add services to that target market.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      Controlled vs. managed is a black and white thinking, though it’s on a spectrum of completely open to completely closed off.A platform can control for certain variables, adding certain constraints, and will manage for those.Friction and distrust will occur when you’re not clear about what is acceptable and if you allow people to put resources into it without first giving your “blessing” go-ahead that it’s an acceptable use.Hoping I’ll learn some nuanced pieces to this from Ryan’s series.

      1. William Mougayar

        Remember when Twitter had to tighten the screws on its platform so it can monetize better? It had to be done.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Yup. I think Fred mentioned this was for the survival of the platform / ecosystem – which makes sense if you have traffic and value leaks that aren’t helping to give back into the business.

  5. JamesHRH

    “Learn from the mistakes of others as life is far too short to make all the mistakes yourself.”I remember realizing, in my early 30’s, that the human race had produced a handful of people who were pretty bright (in the last 3000 years) and that some of them were nice enough to write down the things that they had learned…….Now its just way harder to pick out the smart ones from the loud ones.You’re partially to blame for that Fred πŸ˜‰

    1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      just- loud one’s don’t stand for long time…die off like a damped signal…as you say it is hard to distinguish ‘at present’ … future is the answer … unless the judging person himself is smart-enough.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      I think it’s fairly easy to separate them. It comes out in the quality and style of their writing and how they interact, their overall character. Perhaps that’s biased view of who I get the most from – though one quality seems to be anyone who does in-depth long-form post-analysis discussion and writing about their thoughts, someone who reflects and organizes their past experience into learnings – is a good sign they’re pretty bright.I hope Elon Musk someday writes about certain challenges he’s had. Both Tesla and SpaceX are fairly young though, he likely just can’t yet.

      1. Aaron Klein

        Yesssss. Elon’s lessons learned are going to be epic when and if he writes them.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          They would be value to humanity, and that’s something he has as part of his reasoning behind what he does – so maybe he will start to write – though his time and efforts may be better spent actually solving big problems.Perhaps he needs to learn the AVC model and start posting regularly … to get into the habit of sharing his experiences.

          1. Emily Merkle

            I have little doubt in my mind that Elon Musk is recording his work and thinking for all of posterity, and sharing said learnings / experiences with a select audience.

          2. Matt A. Myers

            Oh, yes, definitely – a lot of though of course is because he’s a product guy – him with a background in physics makes him a core piece of the team, and has allowed his mind to be structured to see advantages in the physical world, most of our new understandings of which have gone unexploited. This is where ideas like the Hyperloop form from.

          3. Aaron Klein

            I’m hoping that five to ten years from now, he’s built Tesla and SpaceX into amazing companies and is ready to go do the next big thing.But he should take six months off to write, first. πŸ™‚

          4. Matt A. Myers

            I picture him more as the ongoing evolving type, where he already has his next plans – it’s just a matter of him working what he does into his routine behaviours. At least that’s how I function.He wants to build a colony on Mars. That’s going to take a lot of different technologies being created, likely under the umbrella of SpaceX – and unless he finds someone competent enough to manage all details as they need, then he’ll have to guide it.

          5. Aaron Klein

            Hyperloop first. πŸ˜‰

          6. Matt A. Myers

            I wonder if anyone else can do it or if the resources it will require also require the trust people have associated with Elon.I do see him doing it – if not alone, in partnership with someone – and if no one does it, I’ll do it.

          7. Aaron Klein

            :)Sent from my iPad

        2. ShanaC

          i suspect elon musk has an iron man suit tucked away somewhere

          1. Aaron Klein


  6. JimHirshfield

    The challenge of the two-sided platform that Ryan references is: how do you build both sides at the same time? I think the answer is, you don’t have to, provided you have the resources (e.g. patient investors) to continue growing one side until there’s enough traction to attract the other side.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Indeed, you just have to understand how to get there – what the leading metrics are.

      1. JimHirshfield


        1. pointsnfigures

          Invested in a company that tried that. Didn’t work. Could have been the execution…could have been something else-or they could have been trying to force a market we thought was there but really wasn’t.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Really depends on the product. Some products can grow while defer the marketplace or two-sided platform characteristic. Twitter was an example of that. Consumers continued to use it; later on, once they were big enough, the platform dynamics became possible. But as @rsarver:disqus points out earlier in this thread, that wouldn’t be possible with, say, Uber: no cars, no riders.

    2. William Mougayar

      I think there’s a distinction between platform users and Twitter users. The network effect is certainly on Twitter users.”Most successful software platforms have exploited network effects between applications and users: more applications attract more users, and more users attract more applications.”

      1. JimHirshfield

        Yeah, I got that. My earlier point elaborated on further in my response to Ryan above in this thread.

    3. Ryan Sarver

      Jim, the answer is sadly “it depends” πŸ™‚ For Twitter the user base grew like crazy because of the product, so we didn’t have to do much to build that one side. As it grew, it drew in more developers and brands to the platform which then created those network effects.Uber is another fun example of a marketplace that I’ve enjoyed watching grow. In it’s earliest days in SF they paid a few drivers full time to drive around the city and wait for their few users to search for a ride. Once there was enough of a market on the user side, they could switch the drivers over to the model it is today where they get paid per ride. This strategy was a big factor in their early success. Imagine if you opened up the app the first few times and there weren’t any cars. You would never think to open it again.I’ve watched too many engineering-driven startups think that by building a great product, both sides of the market will just magically appear and in the exact proportion needed. Sadly that is rarely the case and it takes some unnatural propping up on one side or the other until the flywheel gets going.

      1. Richard

        You mentioned in your post that steve jobs did not appreciate the importance of a “platform”. Mark Benioff told a story recently about a meeting he had with Steve Jobs in 2003, and Steve suggested they build an ecosystem around their Salesforce product, which Jobs praised. They wound up with App Exchange, but Benioff also trademarked App Store and bought the domain. When Apple launched an app ecosystem for the iPhone, Benioff was in the audience during the announcement. He went directly to Jobs at the event and said he was giving Apple the trademark and domain as a gift, thanking him for his sage advice in 2003.

        1. kidmercury

          i wonder if they shared strategies on how to screw over shareholders via options issuance. the two biggest scams against shareholders in silicon valley are the shares of apple and salesforce.

      2. ShanaC

        A) Thanks for stopping by.B) What do you do when one side of the market is silent to you, but not to the customers you are selling at (facing that now)

      3. JimHirshfield

        Right. You highlight the distinction between a product / platform where one side has strong utility to users in-and-of-itself…IOW, on it’s own. e.g. Twitter, Disqus (where I work), or any webmail provider. So, there’s an opportunity for these products to get real big on the consumer side without the other side of the platform growing in kind. That wouldn’t work with Uber, eBay, or Match.com, as you pointed out.Thanks for jumping into the convo!

      4. Michael Brill

        First of all, now that Breaking Bad is over, I was really fretting about having no entertainment… thanks for picking up the slack! One thing I didn’t understand in your post was putting Twitter in the iOS/Android/FB/MS camp and not in the Ebay/TaskRabbit camp. When I think about the former, I think open APIs and associated policies, an active developer community pursuing their own strategies and massive choice to users about how they use the platform. To a layman, Twitter doesn’t really seem to fit that model very well… unless there’s some foreshadowing about what Twitter cards ultimately become?

        1. kidmercury

          i really appreciated the ending to breaking bad. the best tv show i’ve ever seen by a pretty wide margin. i’ve re-watched most of it already.

        2. Ryan Sarver

          Michael, Twitter’s platform is very similar to that of FB. Most of the same applications get built on both platforms especially now that Canvas is almost totally gone for FB.iOS, Android, MS are similar in that they are all traditional OSes. But I would definitely still classify Twitter with those other platforms. I meant the Ebay and TaskRabbit references more for their marketplace aspects, not for their developer platforms (which I don’t think TaskRabbit has, but I could be mistaken).

    4. Donna Brewington White

      This is one story where the investors will be among the heroes.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Well, yeah, for Twitter ’cause the investors stuck with them during hyper growth and (as I understand it) didn’t panic about the revenue model in the same way that the press did.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          This is merely a case of the investors actually having and following theory, whereas the press and most other people don’t believe theory until it’s proven – much like in the scientific community.Theory comes from thinking ahead … that’s what good investors need to do, to find value in things not yet created.Thinking Ahead, Efficiencies Discovered – http://mattamyers.tumblr.co

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Depends who gets their hands on writing the history books..Oh wait! It’s the internet where the storytelling is at its finest, and where the truth can be verified! πŸ™‚

    5. LukeG

      You [always] have to hack one side of a market first to get that flywheel into motion (and Ryan’s Uber example is a classic).His description of platforms as “multisided businesses” β€” not just APIs or data sources β€” reinforces the idea that, at the end of the day, they’re marketplaces.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Yup. Marketplaces.

  7. bfeld

    Yeah – this is going to be an epic blog series.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Quite looking forward to it, as I’m sure many are. I’ve always been curious of Twitter’s evolution.

    2. fredwilson

      Like your term sheet series

  8. Andrew Kennedy

    Today’s post is a textbook example of why I originally came to AVC. My initial use case for coming here was to soak up nuggets of wisdom from Fred on the daily. Then I discovered it was a dynamic content platform (the comments section) and I’ve been hooked pretty much ever since.

  9. Jeffrey Hartmann

    Thank you so very much Fred, this is so timely for us as we have pivoted into something that we are hoping with have platform effects eventually and having the wisdom of someone who has fought this fight is so very valuable. While I love the ‘bar’ that is AVC, things like this just keep on providing value that is so hard to find elsewhere.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Fred’s been helping lead the pack for years now.It’s the future of how every thought leader will be able to help the world further along.And it happens merely by him sharing what he finds valuable and important.

  10. Emily Merkle

    Have had some experience Into platform building. In the ad or media marketplace world, each side of the platform must be built separately for a time, until a tipping point at which they come together and hum. Couple examples:1) startup early adopter of the media marketplace/auction model. While the platform was being built, simultaneously we were evangelizing the model and brining on early adopters (for argument’s sake, consider the users of the platform as the other side of said platform). No dice on the marketplace platform; it did not come together coherently – but we had generated significant interest. Without the technical platform, we had no where to go with our evangelization efforts. Fail.2) Startup ad technical platform came together enough in the first 3 months; at that time we were able to begin bringing in advertisers and publishers (other side of platform). Tech platform was buggy, but we were able to use learnings from the other platform – ad buyers / publishers – to bridge the gap. It was not easy, but after many a tweak and good feedback from partners, we brought the two “platforms” together.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      This is an important distinction that should be made while managing and developing, though unsure if it’s as conscious as it should be.A lot of people developing platforms don’t really understand what a platform is, they just want to get a bunch of people together – and usually are solving for chicken / egg problem.

      1. Emily Merkle

        I haven’t found that to be true. What I have found is the developers of the platform sometimes have no clue about how consumers / visitors act, what they expect to find in their experience with the platform, and a shallow understanding of the ops / business model. Requires the”people” people to work in tandem with the developers.

        1. awaldstein

          agree–what it does is usually way more developed to why anyone will care.

          1. panterosa,

            simple design usually has a lot of editing that only the creators care about. like who really wants to know an athlete’s year long training schedule -they want to see the race.

          2. awaldstein

            And a nudge to you that having a framework for your business and a thesis that carries across all of your products is not the same as selling a platform.

          3. panterosa,

            Nudge taken. I meant the app as a platform itself.

        2. ShanaC

          when it works it is awesome. when it doesn’t it is deadly.

  11. Aaron Klein

    This is a big piece of the Twitter story, but it’s such a fascinating and multifaceted one. From leadership changes, to practically inventing the native ad unit, to letting the user community and developers play such a critical role in shaping the product.And you get the sense that Twitter has matured so much through those challenges that they are going to do the IPO the right way. And that’s going to be a gift to our entire industry.Hugely long on $TWIT…and can’t wait to buy shares.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      If only investing in Twitter was a better bet than putting it into my own projects. ;)Similarly years ago I wish I had the extra money to throw into Tesla.

      1. Emily Merkle

        Don’t we all..

      2. Aaron Klein

        That’s always a good feeling!I have forced myself to open an IRA and put a small amount of money in it every month. I owe that to my wife and kids, as much as I expect that 98% of my future net worth will be coming from the pay window. πŸ™‚

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Maybe nice to say you own(ed) Tesla stock, too – even if just for the fact to be supportive in some way, part of helping the world, the environment, etc..

          1. Aaron Klein

            I haven’t owned Tesla, but I’m long on it too. There aren’t many companies like it.

          2. Matt A. Myers

            It’ll be worth 10x it currently is within a relatively short period.I have some ideas as to when, though my brain’s not fully on right now, so can’t tap into those mental estimates I made..

          3. awaldstein

            Wonder whether this will get commoditized quickly.I”m a fan of it and what they are doing. When it is ubiquitous, won’t Ford and BMW be there?

          4. Matt A. Myers

            Tesla is licensing out their technology, and/or selling components to competitors already.Indeed they will be there, and Elon is happy and wants them to come on board – shifting demand and the market over to electric faster – and to using Tesla’s charging station platform faster, making their own costs less and future predictions more valuable – which will allow them to get even more money to put into infrastructure to speed the whole thing up, including their own production, which will help them accelerate their own market share. *takes a breath*

          5. Aaron Klein

            At it’s core, Tesla is a technology company. Perhaps I’m too optimistic, but there is something about that DNA that gives its founder the leverage to change the game.Case in point: they’ve spent about $1.6 billion building these two cars. GM spent $9 billion on marketing their stodgy old products last year.I’d better watch it, or I’ll be endorsing Fred’s classic marketing post. πŸ˜‰

          6. pointsnfigures

            what is tesla without govt subsidy? Take the subsidy away and there isn’t a company.

          7. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            yep. Same with solar thingy. The timing is too early.but these things will make sense when a barrel of oil goes $500 north.

          8. Aaron Klein

            Yes, but don’t forget the other side of the equation. Battery technology getting cheaper will do it too.

          9. sigmaalgebra

            Fine, have a battery for $0,00. But,still, the range is too short and thecharging time is too long.Or, add up how long need to chargea Tesla using 100 A, 240 V housepower to have the range of, say,a 15 gallon tank of gasoline.All electric can work for golf carts.Hybrid has a chance. All electricdoesn’t.

          10. pointsnfigures

            SOLD. Natural gas and nuclear will have a large effect on oil prices if the bulk of the American economy switches to those forms of energy. Seller of $500 calls all day every day in crude oil.

          11. Aaron Klein


          12. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            +1 on nuclear … they are just starting one close to my home (20-miles away) ….delayed because of some buffoon political act.http://en.wikipedia.org/wik

          13. sigmaalgebra

            No, we will use nuclear fission, just as JLMsaid the French are doing so well.Yes, the Japanese long made some “bloody goodcameras” but are not so good with nuclearpower. Sorry ’bout that.Some of what is in the French civil service isdarned competent.And, we can make gasoline: In the 1960s therewas an article in ‘Scientific American’, whenit was good, from a careful engineering,economic study that could start with Utah coaland put gasoline into a pipeline for $0.65 agallon.Let oil go to $500 a barrel, and then get richfrom Utah coal.South Africa apparently makes nearly all oftheir gasoline basically from the same processGermany used in WWII. It works and is not muchmore expensive than gasoline at present prices.The main inputs, of course, are just water andcoal, plus quite a bit of energy, but if the USwill get its act together with nuclear power –still should be “too cheap to meter” — thencould use nuclear for the energy.Also with good, cheap nuclear power, I can heatmy house, 70 miles north of Wall Street, in thewinter just fine with just a few electric spaceheaters instead of 400 gallons of heating oil.Nukes for electric power and much higher oilprices, and I will use just space heaters. Geta load of oil and use it for hot water foryears.The whole ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’thing is just a flim-flam, fraud scam — likethe threat of the pool table in the movie ‘TheMusic Man’ — to pick pockets of taxpayers,have articles for the silly media, and getcampaign donations for politicians.

          14. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            Agree with you and JLM on nuclear … there is one started near my home (just 20-miles away) … hope it is safe … stopped due to political issues …i hope starts distributing the power early …http://en.wikipedia.org/wik

          15. Aaron Klein

            Fair point. They are playing within the rules for the purchase subsidy. The market is going to get there to make it pencil without a purchase subsidy, but I can’t fault them for using it in the mean time. Elon has paid a lot of taxes to fund it.As for the loans (which are now paid back), that’s a sad comment on our capital markets.

          16. Matt A. Myers

            @pointsnfigures:disqus Not really a fair point, considering it’s just levelling the playing field which other car companies had with bailout money.Not even levelling the playing field, as these other companies have access to the subsidies too – Elon is just the only one taking advantage of them.

          17. Aaron Klein

            @pointsnfigures:disqus Let’s be clear. The DoE loan program has come perilously close to being a bailout program for politically connected friends of the administration (aka Solyndra). There is nothing worse than a “political entrepreneur” whose primary skill set is extracting money from Washington.Tesla paid those loans back ahead of schedule and it’s a sad comment on our capital markets that the private sector couldn’t get that done on its own.I believe there’s a role for government to play in accelerating energy independence as an issue of national security. That being said, we have to be VERY careful to make that investment in a fair and transparent way that can’t be gamed through political influence like it has been.

          18. JLM

            .The appropriate goal of government in accelerating energy independence is policy.1. Make it easy to obtain a drilling permit on and off shore. Lease Federal lands and do it quickly.2. Get out of the way of emerging technologies — shale oil, fracing, directional drilling.3. Distribute crude to the refineries — Keystone Pipeline.4. Permit new refineries both at the coasts and where internal demand justifies their siting.5. Dramatically expand nuclear power in every state. This was the stimulus that was needed.6. Get out of the business of picking and subsidizing winners in green energy. Let the market reach cost equilibrium and thereby decide who gets funded.7. Buy every drop of crude in this hemisphere.If these things were done, the price of gasoline would be $1.25/gallon which would be the greatest tax decrease in US history.Our economy would surge.Our exposure to Middle Eastern chaos and national security challenges would evaporate.It would take effective leadership to do this. We do not have effective leadership currently.JLM.

          19. Aaron Klein

            I support every one of those points, and I would apply the same principles to the long term strategy of clean energy alternatives. You can do that in the same way that you described above without picking and subsidizing winners.The problem lies with the President claiming to embrace an “all of the above” strategy, but blocking #1, #3, #4 and #5.

          20. sigmaalgebra

            It’s called campaign donations.Climate has nothing to do with it.

          21. sigmaalgebra

            We would never do anything like that!If we did that, then it would solve theproblems! Then what would the grafters,K Street Gucci people, WisconsinAvenue restaurants, people gettingFederal loan guarantees and givingcampaign donations, and politicianslooking for such donations do?If solve the problem, then the abilityto get attention by screaming that weneed ‘clean, green, pure, pristine’energy goes away, and they’d neverdo that!

          22. ShanaC

            you do realize UNIX, and therefore LINUX, and therefor cores of web platforms of today, would not have happened if not for political entrepreneurship?

          23. Aaron Klein


          24. ShanaC

            Unix came out of bell labs. Bell Labs existence was basically a tax subsidy given to Ma Bell in exchange for universal phone service.http://www.slate.com/blogs/…Linux came out of the government subsiding education efforts on Unix.http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…Apache was built on Linux in a government supported state school (UIUC, same place as netscape)http://httpd.apache.org/ABO…This site probably runs on a linux server using apache.

          25. Aaron Klein

            It’s not worth recounting all of Matt Yglesias’ ridiculousness, but rest assured, Bell Labs would have existed with or without the universal phone service tax credit. That’s just silly.That being said, let’s be clear β€” there is a HUGE difference between using resources funded by the tax dollars that we all pay, and being a political entrepreneur.My use of that term is to describe an entrepreneur who, rather than building a great product that competes in the marketplace, goes to the government and tries to get them to legislate or subsidize their product as the winner, or regulate and tax their competitor out of existence.Those kinds of people don’t deserve the label “entrepreneur” and Linus Torvalds should not be insulted with the label “political entrepreneur.” He’s nothing of the sort.

          26. LE

            This site probably runs on a linux server using apache.Well it’s fronted by cloudflare (nginx) but if you want to check that you can do (from the terminal) the following:telnet avc.com 80Trying…Connected to avc.com.Escape character is ‘^]’.HEAD / HTTP/1.0HTTP/1.1 200 OKServer: cloudflare-nginxDate: Mon, 30 Sep 2013 17:04:23 GMTContent-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8Connection: closeSet-Cookie: __cfduid=db9004cb3e10a94d4eff6d04fbdda30ed1380560663018; expires=Mon, 23-Dec-2019 23:50:00 GMT; path=/Cache-Control: max-age=15Expires: Mon, 30 Sep 2013 17:04:38 GMTCF-RAY: b627ded4b890099Connection closed by foreign host.

          27. kidmercury

            tesla’s subsidies do not end at the the DOE loan. there are all sorts of credits given to tesla buyers. musk is the ultimate political entrepreneur.

          28. LE

            Not if you look at the car industry. How many new car brands have been launched by entrepreneurs (and not existing manufacturers) over the years and have succeeded?More importantly one thing (I think) brainiac Musk ignores is how important it is to have a network of cooperating car dealers shoving vehicles down the throats of buyers. GM found out the hard way with Saturn (“a different kind of car company”). So far nobody has figured out a way to get people to purchase cars which are bought on emotion by using fixed pricing and eliminating salesman who stretch the truth and get you to act on impulse, bluff, and “buy today”.Correct me if I am wrong but Tesla is “haggle free” pricing?Guess what? That doesn’t scale. What does scale? Giving people a reason to buy today. Deals. Discounts. Etc. With mass auto purchases anyway.

          29. Matt A. Myers

            You have to change governance first, and remove the friction from the process – which is near-impossible with a democratic-capitalistic system. I think I have a solution though it will take years to start to come to life.

          30. pointsnfigures

            Ford didn’t take bailout money. I’d never invest in a company that initially based its business model on using subsidies. I had a chance to invest in Tesla or the other one that failed, don’t remember which and passed just for that fact. I think Tesla is cool, but not a practical multipurpose car yet. FYI I drive a BMW diesel….

          31. LE

            “multipurpose”Exactly. (Mass) Car buying is for edge use cases.

          32. Matt A. Myers

            You wouldn’t invest in a company that is using, taking advantage of, all available resources?If they’d be stuck on them, sure, but that’s not their goal – so if you get stuck on that point without looking at the broader picture, then your returns will reflect your scope of view into the future.

          33. Andrew Kennedy

            Have you ever owned FNMA, Freddie or Sallie stock? Realize the context is a bit different, but curious nonetheless.

          34. kidmercury

            two wrongs don’t make a right.

          35. Matt A. Myers

            So, what’s worse, the problem of oligopolies or helping fund innovation to try to compete with the status quo?You have to pick one – and explain why one and not the other.

          36. kidmercury

            you keep changing the subject. what’s worse, killing one kid or killing 10,000? how about not killing anyone. the crappiness of others is irrelevant.

          37. Matt A. Myers

            It’s not changing the subject. The subject still exists – I am trying to lead you to answering a question so I can either a) better understand where your thinking is stemming from, or b) change your view point.The point is to state that the world isn’t perfect, and if you’re stuck in an imperfect world you have to make a choice – you have to have a preference that works within the existing constraints that exist – otherwise you can’t make a decision – and then your thinking will be stuck, blocked from further evolving. Once you find a preference then your brain can set that, and your mind and thoughts can and will evolve around it. If you don’t pick a preference, generally from having a perfectionistic sub-personality that’s become dominant – then you’ll be stuck in a loop caused by blocks in thinking, and not because it is the end of the thought.Avoiding answering the question is what people do when they don’t want to go further into discussion, generally meaning they’re avoiding it or haven’t thought deeply enough into it to understand all of its nuances.”two wrongs don’t make a right” isn’t helping solve the problem, isn’t helping things evolve to a better place, that is closer to the optimal end conditions I imagine both of us could agree on (for humanity, for how people are taken care of, etc.).

          38. kidmercury

            your question is pointless. it’s like me asking wouldn’t it be better to give a nuclear bomb to OJ simpson instead of joseph stalin since stalin is a bigger criminal.a better alternative is to let the market decide what works. if people like tesla, let them pay for it and buy it, instead of forcing me and other taxpayers to pay for it.

          39. Matt A. Myers

            So with your answer you’re ignoring the fact that the market isn’t free – to allow the market to decide if it’s worth it – so it’s moot.

          40. kidmercury

            lol sure, though that’s like telling a criminal who is in jail that since they are already in jail whether they are actually innocent or guilty is irrelevant and they should accept their destiny. a pessimistic outlook, but the inevitable one when one supports fascist policies.

          41. JLM

            .Ford took no bailout money.JLM.

          42. ShanaC

            i’m fine with the subsidy. The US is not spending enough on companies that do basic research. Telsa is doing a form of basic research and selling it. If the US didn’t interfere, I’d be more worried

          43. LE

            “Telsa is doing a form of basic research”Same as my theory of benefits of war spending.

          44. kidmercury

            #upvoted. a complete garbage company, not even good for the environment. no redeeming qualities. a taxpayer funded luxury good. what a disgrace.

          45. Richard Carlow

            I am always amazed at the look I get when I tell people I know our company is eligible for Gov’t grants and subsidies, but we do not want them.

          46. Matt A. Myers

            Create the demand before you spend money on the supply.Apple follows this rule too.Fred and USV actually follow this rule too – in multiple ways.

          47. pointsnfigures

            You are comparing apples and oranges though. I also disagree with the demand relationship I believe you are implying. While many of Fred’s companies don’t have massive traction initially, I think they are all in the same thesis–and they all are solving pain points that exist and are not being solved via innovation. Or, the current innovation is stale and doesn’t employ networks.

          48. LE

            “You are comparing apples and oranges though”Right. Additionally no comparison between scaling a software solutions (many ways to do this quite easily even back in the 90’s) and tooking a large manufacturing facilities (where things are located near train tracks or water to bring in raw materials).

          49. Matt A. Myers

            Initial core/evangelist users create the demand and bring on other users, the people they know, or by promoting / listing their Twitter handle, etc..Yes, they are solving pain points that existed which is where the core users come into play.

          50. LE

            Different scale making cars than making consumer products though for sure. Tooling and factory size and raw materials is at a different scale.

          51. Matt A. Myers

            Which is why it took Tesla so long to prepar, and why so many people are surprised at Tesla’s seemingly out-of-nowhere growth and success. It takes time to build a platform, to build processes – the more complex and the more pieces, the longer.It took Elon $70 million of his own money to start Tesla Motors. That’s 350x what the average web tech startup of say $200k puts into it.There are only so many big problems to solve, though there still are dozens of them that will take that large sum of money to start.

          52. jason wright

            I just got back from my bike ride. I saw one of these on the road;http://www.renault.co.uk/ca…Tesla models seem a bit expensive to me.

          53. ShanaC

            how much ford spend on research though (or acquisition of research)

          54. LE

            Aron – what is the point of comparing GM’s marketing budget for a company of GM’s size and reach and product line with a small company like Tesla? There is no comparison.It takes advertising and marketing to sell cars. It takes advertising and marketing to sell [1] many things.People (not me) do buy and like GM products. I had a Dodge SUV which I rented on a trip. I was at first repulsed but after driving it a several hundred miles I can see it is a good alternative to someone who needs to get from point a to point b.[1] As Fred knows.

          55. Aaron Klein

            I think it’s instructive that GM could have spent $2 billion building a better product and chose to market the products they have instead.It’s simply a counterpoint to how a technology company works, and I think that’s one of Tesla’s strengths.

          56. LE

            It’s simply a counterpoint to how a technology company works, and I think that’s one of Tesla’s strengths.Tesla is a new company ground up. It has no legacy issues and expenses. This is the same as trying to compare a new airline that cherry picks profitable routes and has a new strategy and no legacy hardware (machinery) or union (people) issues.Why exactly would GM stop selling cars which there is still demand for and put money into something that isn’t proven? They have cut products (Oldsmobile 2004 and more recently Pontiac 2010).There is also a vast dealer network that is setup to market their cars, existing contracts etc. You can’t and shouldn’t try to turn that ship on a dime.Gm sold 10,000,000 cars in 2012 and had 150 billion in revenue.

          57. Aaron Klein

            You’re missing the point. And I never said GM should stop selling anything. Microsoft is a legacy company too. Funny, the ad campaign for Surface didn’t turn out to be a replacement for building great products either.

          58. LE

            When it is ubiquitousWell I’m sure you mean pre-ubiquity because how could Tesla possibly grow the market to the point of ubiquity and others not be part of that growth? Tesla simply doesn’t have the infrastructure.BMW yes. They have the customer base. I wouldn’t touch a Tesla. But I would touch a BWM though. Both BMW and Mercedes have mega dealerships that move tons of cars.Right now Tesla is not really a primary car. It’s more like a secondary car. Even Porsche sports models are really not primary cars. That is why they embarked on a “Porsche everyday” campaign. But the fact is a sports car with 2 seats is not going to be a primary car. And a tesla with 5 seats that needs to be recharged is going to have a hard time being a primary car. People buy vehicles for the edge cases of use and emotionally.

          59. awaldstein

            Ubiquity will be a market reality, not Tesla as a brand by any means.When I had my 86 911 Turbo Porsche coupe it was my only car!

          60. Matt A. Myers

            It’ll be worth 10x what it is now relatively soon.

          61. kidmercury

            tesla doesn’t help anyone except elon musk and those who crave luxury goods. bad for the environment, probably worse than gasoline-powered cars, and certainly bad for the taxpayer who finances the production of these luxury goods while musk keeps the profit. that he is idolized as some tech messiah only adds insult to the injury.

          62. LE

            Agree. Leslie Stahl of 60 minutes loves him long time is a big fan.

          63. Matt A. Myers

            A whole lot of sentences without backing any of it with reasons or facts, and/or at least comparing to how it is worse than current technology available?Who in your mind is a “tech messiah” or deserves it?You realize they’re working on a $30k model of the, right? That, with lease-to-own + never having to pay money to “re-fuel” / charge your car at a Supercharger station – you think that’s bad for the consumer and unaccessible, and bad for the environment?

          64. kidmercury

            consumers get credit for the car from the government, so the real price is higher.how is the electricity generated to power these cars? COAL. yes, that coal, as in the dirtiest fossil fuel out there. and that’s not even counting the battery waste issue, or the the environmental impact of the minerals needed to create and power these cars.

          65. Matt A. Myers

            So, if you want to live in a funnel, where you ignore that solar panel and that other non-polluting forms of energy are being created and evolving – then sure, you can have a hate for the world – but why cause yourself that frustration? Why silo your thinking? You’ll be able to see a much clearer future if you don’t silo your thinking, if you don’t keep each thought in its own context. There are some good visualization meditations that can help expand your brain, mind, like that.Re: Environmental impact – We’re already currently doing that with existing cars and infrastructure, and coal mining, and so unless you’re suggesting we stop using things like metals that we get from the ground – which means no electrical wiring, no electronics (cellphones, laptops, etc), no vehicles, et.c – then the solution becomes better managing these things, leading us towards technology innovation that solves these issues and keeps us in a balance with our home, Earth, without destroying it – e.g. sustainable.

          66. kidmercury

            electric cars require greater electricity which is currently generated predominantly by coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. gasoline cars are powered primarily by gasoline, which is a less dirty fossil fuel. ergo, gasoline powered cars could be viewed as environmentally better, at least from this perspective. at the very least, the environmental superiority and the corresponding moral superiority that solar proponents use in their justification for subsidies (i.e. armed theft from taxpayers) is unsubstantiated.

        2. ShanaC

          you owe it to yourself to be diversified.

          1. Aaron Klein

            You sound like someone with very high risk tolerance, but who has chosen to moderate it. πŸ˜‰

          2. ShanaC

            i’ve learned that lesson πŸ˜€

    2. fredwilson

      I have a few πŸ™‚

      1. Aaron Klein

        Impossible to say until about 20 years from now, but I think Twitter has the chance to end up being your best investment ever.

        1. ShanaC

          interestingly I’m not sure it will last 20 years. What high tech company is going to last 100 years (IBM withstanding)

        2. William Mougayar

          I predict…over time, Twitter will be bigger than Google.

          1. Aaron Klein

            That’s a great prediction. I hope you’re right.

          2. awaldstein

            I’ll take that bet although my heart is with you on this.

          3. kidmercury

            lol didn’t know it was comedy hour here in fredland! thanks for the chuckles william! πŸ™‚

          4. William Mougayar

            OK, but we’ll need to meet in 10 years to find that out.Rira bien qui rira le dernier.Who laughs last, laughs best

          5. kidmercury

            the only thing better than laughing last? laughing first AND laughing last! hahahaha!

          6. William Mougayar

            You’re ahead of yourself a bit, no? 10 years is a long time.Think Mobile, my friend.

          7. Matt Zagaja

            I hope so. I find I get a lot of value from twitter but this value is based off of keeping up with the pulse of political, tech, and business communities in NYC, SF, and Boston. In my own state the journalists have taken to twitter which I find valuable, and there are some other lawyers on it, but it seems to be eschewed by the general population. I notice the same thing when it comes to e-mail adoption, many here are on Yahoo or their ISP mail (although the younger crowd has adopted GMail). However people seem to be adopting Facebook. I wonder what it is that causes people to get Facebook but not understand or want to be involved in twitter when they see it?

          8. William Mougayar

            That’s a good question. I’m not sure what the answer is. I think there are Twitter people, and there are Facebook people, and I’m not sure they are always the same kind.

          9. Timothy Meade

            There are a few different communities on Twitter, among them people interested in startups or business, global politics (the so-called ‘Arab Spring’), or general political discussion in variouls localities world wide. There are also communities who follow celebrities, and celebrities communicating to those people, and there are people who use it like Facebook, follow their friends, follow people they want to hang out with, and mostly keep within those groups.I think that’s the point, Twitter is a platform, with a few simple rules that establish it (that ‘reductive’ language), and people use it for what they want to use it for and how they want to use it.

      2. ShanaC


    3. Donna Brewington White

      Yes, yes, Aaron. Watching Twitter evolve has been immensely fascinating and educational. I am grateful that so much of its process –both successes and snafus — has been visible to the interested public. I know it’s a stretch but as a user I do feel like part of the Twitter story and even the product development team. So many lessons to be learned through observation but now to have those lessons further interpreted and validated by someone intimately involved in the process. This is a fine education.This is one company in which financially investing will just feel like an extension of the relationship. Like putting a kid through college that you helped to raise. Maybe not the perfect analogy but that’s where my head is at these days. πŸ˜‰

      1. Aaron Klein


  12. Brandon Burns

    “Sometimes I think we all are forced to learn the hard lessons first hand and that there is no other way.”Yep.”And then I come across a post like this and am reminded that the Internet/Blogging/Generosity of Others can change that dynamic and is changing that dynamic.”The change of having access to more information doesn’t negate the first point: you still have to learn first hand, the hard way. I’ve read buckets of great advice, advice that was clearly great and I agreed with almost immediately, but I still had to go through the process of ignoring it (sometimes unintentionally, sometimes not) and fall flat on my ass before I really got the point.

    1. Emily Merkle

      Sometimes you have to just learn on the clock.

      1. Anne Libby

        I call that “tuition.”

    2. fredwilson

      I know.

    3. LE

      you still have to learn first hand, the hard wayWell to bring back my point from the other day this stuff is analog not digital. So it’s like trying to learn karate or tennis from a book vs. in a class and by going through the motions (to build the “muscle” memory).When you go through an experience you learn it in a way that you have a seat of the pants feel and can make minor adjustments and know when to apply something you learned vs. when not to. The great “it depends” which I sometimes refer to. The nuance and granularity.Plus book learning doesn’t allow you to make adjustments on the fly based upon inputs that change.That’s why it would be hard for me to write any amount of material to show you how to manipulate the car dealership or salesman. In order to do that I’m processing info and making split second turns and decisions based upon those inputs. How can I lay that out in a wordy algorithm? I can’t it’s all on the fly like guiding a boat through a storm (the muscle memory).I made a point earlier about spending time helping people. That might have given the impression that I’m not willing to help people. That is not the case I am. But I carefully assess the person who is asking in a way that I can’t really describe in words the effort I would put in totally varies by situation.

    4. Joseph Valente

      When you fall flat on your ass though, that advice is the first thing ringing in your head though – I think that’s the value of advice; not that it prevents mistakes but it accelerates the learning process after them.

  13. panterosa,

    I built a system, made it into a game, now into an app. We then realized it was a platform. Much bigger nut to crack. I’ll look forward to this discussion and reading the posts.

  14. Richard

    The secret sauce of platforms is Symbiosis.

  15. pointsnfigures

    Platforms are as old as the hills-but virtual platforms can scale quickly. Sometimes platforms beget other platforms around them. Then there is a cascade of network effects that make them so sticky they never go away.The NYSE is an example of that, or the commodity markets in Chicago. They took the network effects and transferred them to the screen.The spice market in Turkey is a human marketplace that has great network effects. I can buy all that stuff virtually but the core market still persists.

  16. Preston Pesek

    I’m hoping to learn from others’ mistakes as I embark upon a phased approach to building a platform for a 3-sided marketplace; renting fitness/yoga studio space by the hour for live classes, where the interests of space owners, instructors, and students intersect.I call it a platform because it’s designed to allow any of these three groups to create live classes anytime, anywhere: allowing existing studio owners to monetize unused space, convert to a better business model or open new locations. It allows instructors to independently host classes without having to audition for a job or open a studio. Finally, students can practice when and where they want, tapping into a directory of spaces and instructors, designing their own schedules without having to rush across town to make it to class on time.The student value prop is the mass consumer product that emerges at scale on top of the platform, but requires the foundation of what looks a web-based Saas product for studios and teachers to schedule, promote, and process payments for space rental and class promotion & tickets.By necessity I am approaching this in phases, first targeting independent studio owners with a product that provides cash flow where they otherwise didn’t have any, renting to teachers on their existing roster or elsewhere who are eager for more classes… This approach provides value for early users regardless of whether or not anyone else is using it, and allows us to start to build critical mass to achieve network effects that can lead us on a path to becoming a true platform.I’m currently in the weeds of building the web based saas for studios & teachers, and as a first time entrepreneur, this approach makes sense to me, but I know the collective experience and wisdom here on AVC is far greater than my own. A bit of open kimono to the public here, but I’m familiar enough with the complexity of execution that I’m confident there’s more value in community feedback than there is the risk of competition at this point. I thank you sincerely for any guidance.

    1. William Mougayar

      Read this book which Ryan says was his inspiration and guiding post. It’s free. http://mitpress.mit.edu/boo

      1. Preston Pesek

        Thanks William, just downloaded it.

    2. Michael Brill

      I’m building a three-sided marketplace for wine… so if you really want to learn from others’ mistakes, make sure to keep in touch! πŸ˜‰

    3. Anne Libby

      The problem your product highlights is that there are too many yoga studios. A tough one to solve. I know a good bit about this market (in NYC) and would gladly give you an hour of my time if you’d like a download.

      1. Preston Pesek

        Hi Anne, thank you for reading and responding, I would love to connect. I do however, disagree that excess studio supply is the problem. In fact, substantial research shows that even though there is lots of vacant inventory at studios, there is extraordinary pent up demand for yoga. The #1 reason that students don’t practice at studios is because it’s inconvenient to do so: fixed schedules in fixed locations makes it all but impossible for students to find the right combination of preferences (time, location, teacher, style, level, studio amenities, pricing). Because studios currently bear 100% of the risk of attendance, and must pay teachers regardless of who shows up with the current model, they can’t afford to offer enough variety to meet the varying demands of a diverse local marketplace, or even take the risk of trying new types of classes outside their core brand. What we’re offering is a change from a push model, where studios try and predict market demand, to a pull model, where they offer their space up to capture it wherever it exists.

        1. Anne Libby

          I’ve been watching this for a very long while, and once had some skin in the game. It’s a strange market, lots of irrationality. I sure don’t see the pent up demand (though that doesn’t mean it’s not there, just that I don’t see it) and would be curious to hear how you calculated this one.Glad to chat, and I wish you the best fortune.

  17. Dale Allyn

    Thanks for pointing out Ryan’s series, Fred. I may not have seen it via my feeds, and it looks like it’s going to be very interesting.

  18. JLM

    .Learning from experience is a great way to learn. The real issue is this — whose experience?I have fallen into “CEO coaching” by accident when I retired from running a public company over a year ago. I’ve had 33 years of CEOing in my career — companies I founded, companies I bought or bought into, turnarounds, companies I took over.I get a lot of calls from folks asking for advice especially startup up founders and CEOs. I have not solicited a single such relationship — perhaps I should.In every instance, I have been able to help CEOs with things that I had done a lot of times including things I had screwed up a few times. I can teach them from my pain or my success — either way works.I have been a pack rat and have saved every form and exemplar that I have ever developed and as an engineer/finance CEO guy I have developed a whole lot of exemplars. The computer made it easy to store them. Everyone has the benefit of having been tried, tested and improved.It is far cheaper than the full tuition approach of doing it yourself.I belabor this point because salons like AVC.com, generous guys like Fred Wilson and the incredible talent in the community provide the exact same experience.It is easier and cheaper to learn from others’ applicable experience. If I can help you, just drop me an email or call.JLM.

    1. ShanaC

      thank you

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Whenever I point someone your way, I do so with the highest confidence.

    3. LE

      I think it’s great what you do if you are (semi?) retired. (I assume you still do “work” of some kind). My dad is that way. He’s got all the time in the world to help anyone and obviously enjoys it. He had no time for me growing up of course. Well I shouldn’t say that he did in some ways.But I would caution anyone who is younger from getting to wrapped up in helping others. Of course there is the obvious payback that you get in feeling good (which can be quite addictive which is the exact negative you have to avoid). It can have a tremendous impact on other more important things in your life. Especially if you have to earn a living. And ultimately someone who you helped 5 years ago that you have no contact with on an ongoing basis is not going to bail you out of a mess later on that you get into because you took your eye off the ball. They won’t be there to clean up the mess. You will have to stock your own pantry.There is no right or wrong answer for the correct amount of time and resources that you should spend giving free advice or help to others obviously. But things that you do that are “good” or viewed as “good” don’t convert easily into coin in your pocket which is an important and necessary part of survival. Just something to keep in mind. (Fwiw – I have helped and still do help plenty of people over the years for free (and recently started to charge in some cases because of the time drain it takes in doing a good and thorough job).

      1. JLM

        .Whoa, Cowboy, who said anything about free?JLM.

        1. LE

          Hah. Note that I didn’t say you did it for free. (Did I? I’m not seeing that). Comments were directed to the AVC readers in reply to you. (My testimony).My dad is that way. He’s got all the time in the world to help anyone and obviously enjoys it.Didn’t say my Dad helps anyone for free either. (Up to you to guess if he does or not though).Not that it hurts you if people think you do help for free. Then more people will contact you. They get into the venus fly trap. Then you close them. If they never contact you you don’t have a chance to close them. All a balance. Of course if 50 people a day are wasting your time then you need to have a price to keep out the pain in the ass bystanders. Once again to make the same point it all depends.One point I will make though is that whatever you charge (unless we are talking about some equity with a large payback) it probably does not even come close to the value provided. My point in saying that is not to blow smoke up your ass or anything. But to recognize what someone learns over the course of 40 years in business can’t be easily quantified.I mean what would it take me to replace the knowledge that you have about building an office building? What’s that worth?

      2. CJ

        Helping people is its own reward, I don’t see why that makes one earn less or spend less time with their family. Also good people tend to have a surplus of those willing to help them later rather than a dearth.

        1. JLM

          .There is probably no greater satisfaction in the world than helping someone help themselves. Revealing the truth that was already within that person.Seeing something happen as it should and must is a huge reward and boon to one’s ego and nourishes one’s self esteem. A different currency, indeed.JLM.

        2. LE

          Helping people is its own rewardI’ve recognized that. Specifically I said:Of course there is the obvious payback that you get in feeling good but then I said: which can be quite addictive which is the exact negative you have to avoidAnyway this:I don’t see why that makes one earn less or spend less time with their family.Because time is a finite resource and if not managed properly something will suffer.The problem that I am recognizing is actually that it is “so rewarding” and reinforcing. That’s what gives it addictive powers.The fact that someone is, by certain definitions, “doing good” doesn’t mean that others (or yourself) aren’t impacted and all is well in muddville. I have no doubt that there are many people whose parents were all involved and over the top with civic and religious organizations and their children and jobs suffered because of it. (I’m not one of those but I do know of examples of this and the impact.)

    4. Matt A. Myers

      This is the part I value of you. The parts we disagree on though, that we have a different view point on, at times feel like someone is jabbing a knife through my hand. :o)

      1. JLM

        .A failure to agree results in a knife through the hand?You better get some salve for that or toughen the skin up a bit, kemosabe.JLM.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Naw, see that’s the problem – tough skin stops you from feeling, and we need more people feeling in this world, not being numbed to it, numbed to caring about everyone else and how everyone and everything affects everyone and everything else.

      2. CJ

        A smart man does not hold one’s sentiments against his intellect. I’ve learned a lot from people that I don’t entirely agree with and I treasure the experience. Chances are that without the friction I wouldn’t have been properly prepped to receive the knowledge.

        1. JLM

          .In terms of absolute learning I can say without reservation I have learned more later in life from folks with whom I did not agree initially. Huge, transformational learnings.I cannot tell you the number of things I thought I “knew” that I learned I knew wrong.On the other hand, I also have strengthened many things that I have learned are even more essential than I ever thought — only doing business with folks you like and respect as an example.In many ways, I was not yet ready to really learn. As you note so well, perhaps I needed the friction of life to rub open the loci of learning.JLM.

        2. Matt A. Myers

          Agreed. It helps you clarify your own understanding and beliefs, too.

    5. Joseph Valente

      Thanks JLM. Big Red Car is a source of wisdom as well though so you’ve definitely been generous too. I just ordered Washington’s Crossing as well last week and its in the mail πŸ™‚

      1. JLM

        .I hope you enjoy the book, Joe. I found when reading it that Washington was a genius.I would love to know when it came to him — having been badly beaten across Long Island, Manhattan, Harlem, New Jersey and hiding behind the Delaware River — that he should undertake an incredibly complicated amphibious double envelopment of an entrenched enemy — the Hessians — he had never beaten before.That is when America was born because if the Brits had gotten the Americans in a pitched battle at that time, the Continentals would have been destroyed.Pure genius. Towering genius.I think in that book you can find at least 20 examples of Washington’s entrepreneurial genius.JLM.

        1. Joseph Valente

          I’m definitely looking forward to it JLM. Sounds like it is a great example of lessons learned – I think there was a genius inside Washington all along but it took a series of harsh lessons to bring it out of him.I’m sure he had been educated on many lessons of history but there is no substitute for experience – not even for him it seems.

    6. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      Nice words JLM. Thank you.

    7. sigmaalgebra

      “Experience is the great teacher, and somewill learn from no other.”

      1. JLM

        .I once accidentally stuck my finger into a light socket when cleaning out a refrigerator.Cheap lesson: it hurt and made my arm tingle up to my shoulder.Learn from experience of OTHERS whenever possible.JLM.

    8. fredwilson

      i am a big fan of CEO Coaching. and I think if you do take this on, you can be among the very best. you have all the tools to help people get better at what they do quickly.

      1. JLM

        .Hey, Fred, nice of you to say that. Most of my clients thus far have come from AVC.com so in that regard you are my pimp — in the nicest use possible of that word.Thanks.JLM.

        1. fredwilson

          pimping things (people, companies, USV, etc) is a big part of what i do

  19. Elia Freedman

    I’m always amazed that content like this gets found. I think about when I first started and how I found content like this. There is so much of it out there and it takes such a long time to build a reading list. This is one reason I love what William is working on as, assuming you find William, he gives so many resources that it is like tying into his years of following people. I wish there was a Google for this kind of stuff but unfortunately a Google search will turn up too much garbage to make it useful.

    1. falicon

      Especially early on in the Twitter days, I heard over and over that “if the content is good, it will find me”…I didn’t believe it then, not sure it’s still actually true…but I do think the trend continues to move towards that…The trick is to make it obvious to people (and computers) what kind of information should be finding you…then all you’ve got to do is be open to letting it come… πŸ™‚

      1. Elia Freedman

        That’s an interesting idea (although it has to have been done, I’d think). A service where you basically plug in your interests and maybe how much of a firehose you want and it spits back to you interesting content.

        1. falicon

          That was the orig. design/plan behind knowabout.it … only you didn’t have to ‘tell’ the system anything…because you are already doing that via all the content you generate on Twitter, Facebook, Disqus, etc. etc. etc.We just pulled in all the content you created, and used it to guide what other content was most likely to be interesting to you right now…It actually worked amazingly well for our simplistic approach (didn’t work out as a business for many reasons — which I’ll cover in a future “Didn’t work wednesday” set of posts on my blog I’m sure) πŸ™‚

          1. Elia Freedman

            Just grabbed your feed. I’ll follow along. πŸ™‚

          2. Timothy Meade

            Well I for one absolutely believe that AI-driven prediction is the future of search, discovery, and social interaction (though it looks very different for that use case.)I’m honestly annoyed by how little Google Now can do on my new Android phone (and it wasn’t even available for my old one.) I’m annoyed because it and Siri and the alternatives put forth by companies working on computer speech for decades are no better, the recognition has certainly approved with connected statistical methods, but the API and the platform is just not there.Beyond that, we are missing deep search within applications, which has no reason to be limited to a PalmOS like intent search on a single device, but app backends themselves should be crawlable by a search engine, through an open API, through a knowledge-driven API (expose facts, triples, whatever). Annotate with location, time, and then let us make queries against those databases. “When is the meeting next week” should return all events fitting that description that I’ve expressed interest in, not limited to what’s in my phone, or my Google Calendar, but maybe including my iCal feeds (ics), eventbrite events I’ve tweeted about, meetups, etc. Of course it would be great if it new which of these meetings is most important to me, or, maybe if I ask before work that it should be the one at work next week, and not the event at the local accelerator.Anyway, good luck on whatever you work on next.

          3. falicon

            Heh – thanks!Though it won’t look like it to the outsider, everything I do is at least somewhat iterative towards the next thing.Conversationlist.com (Twitter API work) lead to knowabout.it, knowabout.it (real-time recommendation engine based on automated search) lead to gawk.it, and gawk.it (blog and conversation search) has finally lead to coachwizard.com (which has powerful search baked in from day one, does a lot of ‘intelligent recommendations’ and takes at least a little advantage of some social platforms and APIs)…this is part of why I’m always doing so many ‘little projects’…it gives me real experience/knowledge and a large code-base to pull from for the ‘bigger ideas’ πŸ™‚

    2. matthughes

      The best curation is handmade in my view.Granted, tools like Google & Twitter help in the process but the final product really needs human touch, like William’s.

      1. Elia Freedman

        Completely agree. I’ve been into Circa (for iOS) lately. It’s a human curated news app.

  20. Tyler Hayes

    Totally unrelated to the subject matter but I have to ask: why did you censor the word s**t? Maybe you’ve done that before, I just don’t recall. I guess I’m most curious because we all know what the word is even though it’s censored?

    1. TheScienceEnthusiast1130

      Obviously, because of religious/politically conservative reasons, this beLIEf makes him want to use censorship, especially on the word “shit”.

    2. fredwilson

      it seemed like the right thing to do at the time

  21. LE

    And so he’s writing a series of blog posts about what he learned in the four years he was in that role.I would like to egg on Tracy Jackson to produce a documentary on why people do things like this. To uncover the obvious and not so obvious motivations of an entire generation that can do what we couldn’t do back in the day. I think it would be fascinating. [2]Should Tracy want to do this project I will commit the first $500 [3] to the kickstarter campaign (in exchange for a 5 second credit at the beginning for suggesting the idea). [1][1] Take note Brandon Burns.[2] Of course I have theories and questions that need to be answered around this.[3] To @falicon – Kevin Marshall – never allow yourself to be egged on by anyone not willing to put skin in the game.

    1. falicon

      Nice!For the right problem…I can be egged on by anyone (skin in the game or not)…but that’s because, on many levels it’s not about the person behind the idea/problem, and it’s not about the idea itself…it’s about the problem and the journey towards the solution that often excites/interests/involves me…As a complete side, I’ve been doing a “Didn’t work Wednesday” series on my own blog where I dig into past projects/ideas I’ve done and dump some of my thinking as to what mistakes (in hindsight) I think I made….I’m doing it partially because it helps clear my thoughts on ‘new strategy’ thinking for my latest stuff, partially because I think it might help others (at least the 3 that read my blog), and mostly just because it feels good and freeing to do it…So do I get to be included in the documentary? πŸ™‚

      1. LE

        “at least 7 second credit and Kevin gets on film for X minutes”.(Tracy hasn’t accepted the offer so I will alter it. But this is her deal.)

      2. Matt A. Myers

        It’s helped me. Keep doing. πŸ™‚ And thanks.

  22. Matt A. Myers

    “Sometimes I think we all are forced to learn the hard lessons first hand and that there is no other way.And then I come across a post like this and am reminded that the Internet/Blogging/Generosity of Others can change that dynamic and is changing that dynamic.”This is what AVC and you have provided – along with other experienced people I have stumbled upon – the way to help navigate the future with higher odds, basically teaching us poker – along with being able to watch real-life changes occur, how companies are playing their hands. There is some that needs to be assumed, intuited, though as I trust to understand these when the time comes – I’ve trusted that I will be able to figure them out or find the people or resources to help learn and understand further.For whatever reasons you’ve resonated more with me – maybe your writing style and selected breadth of topics. Perhaps the experience and lessons you’ve learned and can share are relating to similar models that I’ve known are part of the answer – along with USV’s portfolio signalling this as shining examples of success to draw my attention.I wish I had read Continuations more in the past, though I’m guessing I just didn’t have time – though Albert writes often about big challenges in the political and life arena that need a big shift to occur.I’m curious to get to know the other partners at USV – and wondering when they may fit into my learning scheme to help me move forward. Here’s a link to all of them if anyone’s curious – http://www.usv.com/team/I wonder too when it will be my time to start paying it forward by writing about what I have learned, to try to help others, to help move things forward faster.

  23. sigmaalgebra

    > I learned so much watching Twitter wrestlewith and figure out the platform challengesand it informs a lot of the advice I giveentrepreneurs on this matter.Maybe I’m wrong, but my guess would bethat 99 44/100% of VC Board Members,hearing about wrestling with thechallenges, would feel that the Twitterfounders had gone off half cocked,had been winging it and gotten lostand run out of fuel in midair, and had beenselling a flim-flam to the investors and, then,done a big upchuck followed by somescreaming, throwing whatever could bemoved, including the board room furniture,and then getting a fire axe and startedswinging.So, how’d you keep your cool?Once my Dad and I went duck huntingwith some other guys, and on the wayI got to ride in the back of the pickuptruck. The truck drove as fast as possibledown the ‘road’, really, just muddy holesin the woods, because stopping mightmean getting stuck. So, mostly thetruck was off the ground, and in theback I was in the air about 80% of thetime — rough 20%. Yup, that’s whatsome startups will be like, even if theyare eventually successful. How manyVCs know that?

  24. george

    Powerful and thought provoking posts today! On a large level, the breakthrough comes through clarity – how to organize and align ideas. AVC is a great education platform, thanks to many!

  25. Lisa SchlΓΌter

    As a business student I am learning a lot of theory during the lessons. Especially for me it is very interesting to read about some experiences of successful entrepreneurs. With the help of blogs I can get an insight into the real practice and so I’m able to link it to my studies to fill them with crucial and current examples. But I think that it is also very important to read about certain failures in order to learn a lesson from them and to get a greater overview about the business process as such.And finally you should always keep in mind that every post is subjective. That means that it is influenced by own interests, views and experiences. So it is also important to read between the lines and in the end to form an own opinion.

  26. Quick MVPs

    As we have (rather painfully) discovered over many years, first-hand, practical, candid accounts and advise on the business aspects of tech ventures are very hard to come by online. (As an aside, IMO, the purely tech-oriented community is several orders of magnitude more generous about sharing knowledge.)Thanks for sharing this Fred – and Ryan.

  27. LE

    Not only that but at the core it’s a reductive (or retarded?) communication method.

  28. William Mougayar

    Not today, agreed. But tomorrow is another day. Remember what Google was like 10 years ago? I think Twitter is getting close to that point in time.

  29. JLM

    .I would rather deal with anything at home than invest more blood in the Middle East.Nuclear may be the key.JLM.

  30. kidmercury

    depends on how you define cheaper. there is a little somethign called LAND, and if that magically becomes free, then sure, maybe it solar can actually be cost-competitive at scale. not to mention the tendency of solar fanboys/girls to ignore the cost of rare earths, copper, vanadium, and lithium, as well as their overly optimistic projections as to how long solar panels can actually last before needing replacement.

  31. JLM

    .When I owned thousands of apartments and hundreds of large warehouses, I was as up to date as one could be on solar power. The numbers never worked.I stay pretty well informed on the technology and Austin recently entered into a deal with a huge solar array.The challenge continues to be simply one of cost. Solar continues to be 4-10 x more expensive than any other alternative while the efficiencies of nuclear remain untapped.When the numbers work, there will be an explosion of demand and growth but until then it is all just a pipe dream.The combination of solar, wind, storage and re-sale are the right equation when the numbers work.Today, we could cut gasoline costs by over 60% with a coherent energy policy.JLM.

  32. JLM

    .You are what I call “drunk on reality”. Well played.JLM.

  33. sigmaalgebra

    And, what to do when it rains,snows, or the sun goes down?Storage. Right? Have to countthe cost of storage. Have anycheap solutions there?And you invest in an electric generating plant that can providereliable power 24 x 7 and suddenly find that the subsidized solar guysare taking your daytime revenueso that you have to raise yournighttime prices.Did someone say “There’s no suchthing as a free lunch.”?

  34. Andrew Kennedy

    My fiance’s grandfather who is 92 has won the russian equivalent of the nobel prize for nuclear energy. I think you might enjoy this video clip of him explaining what he thinks about nuclear: http://www.youtube.com/watc… Was filmed last year.

  35. sigmaalgebra

    But, but, but, what the US isdoing in the Mideast is spreadingpeace, freedom, democracy,human rights, and the dignityof man!!!

  36. JLM

    .Not sure exactly from whence you are getting your info but Germany is using less than 8% of renewable energy resources.I am a huge fan of alternative and renewable energy and hate to admit that the French are making the US look silly with their ability to safely generate power using nuclear.The French actually export electricity while generating over 75% of domestic demand using nuclear.JLM.

  37. sigmaalgebra

    So cruel! How could you be soCRUEL! And irresponsible!Of course, humans are evil. Theysin. Their worst sin of all is carbon,ugly, filthy, toxic, polluting, planet destroying carbon.That’s the transgression, the sin, theevil humans and their terrible useof carbon.Then the retribution will be the totaldestruction of all life on earth frommassive, beyond the tipping point,climate change and global warmingthat will flood the coastal citiesand turn the rest of the earth intooven hot deserts.Redemption? There will no redemption!We must sacrifice all to have 100%,pure, pristine, forever renewable, safe, clean energy, walk and ridebicycles to work, use backyard gardens, sew our own clothes, and finally return to a genuinelyhealthy life style.Electric power should have afloor price of at least $1 perKWH, small enough price forsin by evil humans!Do I have Al Guru message aboutright?Oh, I left out, in warm climates, don’t wear any clothes at all!

  38. JLM

    .I suspect the difference may be electricity v power. Electricity is a component of total power.JLM.

  39. kidmercury

    and still not enough. that’s why solar hasn’t scaled and won’t. not to mention, accessing the ridiculous amount of land is one thing. but even if such a quantity of land exists, you still have to convince the owners to participate.solar has its role to play, but if it’s the star of the energy show, get used to a world with less energy (i.e. less life, less innovation, less wealth, etc)

  40. kidmercury

    yup. exactly. you’re speaking the truth, sigma!

  41. kidmercury

    less energy absolutely, without any shadow of a doubt, means less life. the amish and mennonite model is not scalable, and upon close examination, they are dependent upon the technological innovations of others — they just don’t partake directly.less energy means less clean water, food, healthcare capabilities. it is to romanticize less energy in the united states, where we live in relative energy abundance (though not nearly as much as we should have). places like pakistan where children spend most of their day going to find wood for cooking so that their caretakers can cook in dangerous environments that often result in third degree burns and the idea of energy poverty becomes far less romantic.