Doing Business Before Email

My friend Jordy was cleaning out some old desk drawers and came across this today

Euclid business card

I met Jordy in 1991, the year Euclid invested in the business he and his partner Ronny started, Upgrade Corporation Of America. I wrote a blog post about the important lesson those guys taught me fairly early in my career.

There is no way Jordy could have had my business card prior to 1991, so that tells me I did not have an email address at that time. I recall Steve Case handing out AOL floppy disks at some tech conference I went to in 1991 or 1992, so I think I got AOL email around that time. I still keep my AOL email address for old times sake. I am fredwilson at AOL and because of that, I am fredwilson at most every online service you might find me on.

In any case, you can see from my business card that in 1991, business was done largely on the phone. Within five years, business had largely moved to email, at least my business had.

I rarely use the phone anymore. I will use Skype or Hangout for a group meeting. I will still call into conference call bridges from time to time. But the vast majority (I suspect well north of 90%) of my business dealings are done via email. Which makes them much more discoverable (as Albert points out in his post today).

I don’t miss doing business by phone. We got less done, learned less, and moved slower. I realize there are many who might long for that pace of business. But I don’t.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Dave Hendricks

    I would not be surprised if in 5 years you look at your cards from today and wonder why there was a phone number at all.We’ll be reachable via our email address because it will be your ‘phone number’ identity for all intents…find you wherever you are. Only thing I see in competition would be your twitter handle @whatever.Phone number old unique id, email new unique login id.

    1. LE

      Won’t happen. Still a legacy world out there. Not only that but many people who don’t type well are really bad at email.You know what happens then? It then becomes the problem of the person who is replying to the email to figure out what the sender means when all they do is FUCKING GRUNT. I get that many times. Some simple question where I have to take the time to type 4 things because I’m not sure what the actual question is. Sometimes I will just turf it back with a question and sometimes it’s quicker to just type. It helps to be a fast typist.A phone conversation otoh is interactive in real time. So you can have someone grunt and then you say “well do you mean x or y” and then you follow down the tree to resolution. Many times as long as you skip the bullshit “how are you” [1] it can be very quick. But I hate the phone. It’s interuptive and isn’t needed for most things. I can usually drill down with email quickly in most cases.[1] What a waste that is. Total overhead on a phone conversation. Like the rule should generally be if I call you and you are being held hostage tell me. If I call you and you can’t talk because you are at your father’s bedside and he just had a stroke just tell me. If your dog just got hit by the car then don’t answer the phone. Otherwise let’s just assume that everything is ok and neither of us is having a conversation or has the time to hear minute unimportant details. I’ll save that stuff for the convenience store clerk that asks me how I am doing.

      1. bsoist

        I love how you put footnotes in your comments. It’s clear we think very much alike ( whether we agree on every point or not ).I hate the phone for the reason you indicated – interruptive – but I can always tell after one or two emails if it would be easier to communicate by phone. Some people really cannot put their thoughts in writing.

      2. PeterisP

        For a significant portion of my acquitances I’d be okay if they e-mailed me if they want something from me, but I don’t want them calling me, ever – as you say, it’s interruptive. So I could imagine a business card for such cases with phone deliberately skipped.It’s different in, say, sales where I’d want people to contact me in any way that’s convenient to them; but for me many cases the contact info is so that I could help them if it’s not too big of a hassle for me – so, e-mail yes, but please no phone.

    2. fredwilson

      i don’t have a business cardwhen asked for one, i say “fred at usv”that works for almost everyone

      1. Dave Hendricks

        Yep. I’m dave at Liveintent. Best way to reach me.Thanks for writing this post. It helped me think some things through some more.

  2. Julien

    The power of asynchronous is everywhere these days 🙂 However, as most of the developers who deal with that, you have to be very careful with overflow and back pressure 🙂

  3. Aaron Fyke

    Disqus is showing zero comments…is that possible!?

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Fred posted later than usual. I am typing the 11th comment at 1:11 p.m. PDT. Crazy.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Cue “Twilight Zone” theme 😉

        1. Donna Brewington White


      2. William Mougayar

        Lateness of post is in sync with its subject when business communications were much slower 🙂

        1. fredwilson

          actually, it is because i am here…

          1. William Mougayar

            ah…got it.

      3. bsoist

        I checked in very late in the day yesterday and couldn’t believe there were only 53 comments. 🙂

  4. Julien

    If you’re handing business cards these days, they should probably just have your name and people you give it to should be smart enough to Google/DDG your name and find everything relevant about you.Bonus point if it’s just a pic of you and that pasting a camscan of this in the “image” search box is enough to show who you are and everything else 🙂

    1. pointsnfigures

      Or you could just download Bump and forget business cards altogether. I accrue them and don’t know what to do with them. Haven’t found a reliable program yet to convert them to my contact list-along with categorizing them.

      1. Elia Freedman

        I add them the old fashioned way: typing. 🙂

      2. Cynthia Schames

        I thought Bump was DOA?

    2. LE

      If you’re handing business cards these days, they should probably just have your name and people you give it to should be smart enough to Google/DDG your name and find everything relevant about you.Smart enough? If you have a name like Fred Wilson and you are the 785th Fred Wilson how do you expect that is going to work?Besides it doesn’t cost anymore if you have a business card to have your email and web address on the card.By the way many “regular” people are smart. But they aren’t necessarily clued into doing google searches to figure out and triangulate identity believe it or not.

  5. Chris Kurdziel

    Is it possible that we’ll feel the same way about email someday?

    1. Dave Hendricks

      No. Get rid of the email address and you won’t be reachable in the future.I’ve had 3 work phone #s the same time that I’ve had one gmail address.The only other identifier that comes close is a twitter handle. Phone numbers are unique IDs. Email addresses and Twitter handles are unique ids. This is about addressability and reach.Even text is based as much on email addresses now as Phone numbers.Problem with phone numbers? Until Google Voice (which requires you to have an email address), phone numbers we hard coded to residential gateways. You didn’t log into someone else’s house and get calls there. You can log into a computer at the library now and get email at gmail (and google voice/hangout calls). That is totally email dependent.Email addresses are both cross-channel and channel agnostic. See my other comment if you are so inclined.

  6. BelindaWilson

    Does anyone think it’s possible to do business without email? Lately, I’ve been saying “email is dead to me” but unfortunately my colleagues aren’t buying in. I’d like to move to Twitter-only ;)I remember Larry Page said at Google IO that he doesn’t use a computer, but is running his life off phone/tablet. That’s interesting. I bet it improves efficiency.I’m just re-evaluating what the optimal solution is for me personally – flow of email, to-do list, etc. Email is killing me.Thoughts?

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I think it depends on the type of work you do.I am in a business with a large amount of information exchange and extensive communication between multiple parties. I’d be sunk w/o email.Some of my colleagues say this is still a phone business. (executive search) In the early days of my profession, I got to the place that I didn’t want to even see a phone when the work day was over. That was in the days before mobile when the work day actually ended. That sentiment has continued even though I don’t spend nearly the same amount of time on the phone.My phone aversion doesn’t help my relationship with my mother.Checking email is sometimes the first thing I do each morning and the last thing at night.Most of my texts are to my kids. If I send my college son an email for something, I have to text him to tell him to check his email.

      1. JamesHRH

        Email is for important, Of Record items (wills, Offers to Purchase / Lease, titles, etc.).College kids don’t have much of that.Important is Of Schedule for them – texting is the top dog on that issue.

    2. JamesHRH

      Works for Larry because he has an EA to run the details of his life.Tablet sucks for airline reservations, etc.

      1. LE

        Agree. What he does bears no relevance to most others.

  7. Anthony Serina

    I believe in Sales the phone is still extremely important but in an ideal world I would use the phone even less. Texting is my preference over email though.

    1. JamesHRH

      Nothing, NOTHING, beats talking to a client, if you are B2B selling.In person, on the phone, on a video conf, in a bar, on a golf course, in his office, does not matter.However, customer service has been unbelievably improved through chat, text, portals.I think it is 15 years ago that I told a committee from a utility: ‘The internet will make big companies feel like they are small and small companies deliver like they are big.”

      1. Anthony Serina

        I agree it is the next best thing after in person meetings. I like Skype and similar options but bigger companies still do not use them all the time. Also when you are selling, especially B2B, talking on the phone gives you so many signals. If you ask a question on the phone you get an answer instead, with emails you can be ignored.

      2. Scott Barnett

        Totally agree. I also find email can be misunderstood much more than a phone conversation. Email cannot express emotion or nuance. No doubt that I use email more than anything else, but a 2 minute phone call can usually eliminate 100 emails, so it’s still pretty critical, IMHO

      3. ShanaC

        because it is very hard to automate the personal in marketing and sales.

        1. Ryan

          I agree. Its tempting for me and my programming background to not try and automate it, but you really have to take it one client at a time.–

      4. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        Yup. Phone number is probably even more important than emails to B2B sales guys

    2. fredwilson

      that is probably true. and since i am on the opposite end (ie buyer), that explains why i hate the phone

  8. William Mougayar

    Short emails are good. Long emails are bad (mostly), unless you’re negotiating an agreement.When I started working for Hewlett-Packard in 1982, the forms of communications were:- Regular Mail – Interoffice mail (in yellow envelopes)- Telephone – Interoffice phone (cheaper for long distance)- Telex (precursor to Fax, between a telegram & Fax) we called them “twix”. They came to a central office location & only secretaries operated them – Typewriters for the Admin assistantsI miss the Telex 😉

    1. JamesHRH

      In the early ’90’s, I worked @ Y&R (global ad agency).I drafted a letter to the VP of Marketing for An Auto Manufacturer Who Shall Remain Nameless (starts w F, isn’t Ferrari). The letter was signed by my client, the chairman of the association of Alberta dealers. Despite being the VP of marketing’s ONLY distribution channel, the cats in Head Office liked to think of dealers (and in particular my AB dealers) as simple minded trouble makers.The letter basically told the VP – politely – that he was undermining (across the country, in total) $10’s M in advertising efforts at the dealer association level. The letter had key two strengths: it was accurate and it asked for an imminently reasonable solution to be implemented.The letter also had no hope of ever being acted upon because the VP was, in short, useless (one of those guys who make ‘Professional Marketer’ an oxymoron).When the VP received it via interoffice, he faxed it immediately to my boss, who faxed it to me with ‘what the hell is this? draft a response’ hand-written across the middle of the one page letter.I drafted a gag response. It spent 3 paragraphs talking about the quality of the original letter (well reasoned, exceptionally articulated, etc….) faxed it back to him and called my account co-ordinator into my office.We had estimated that it took my boss’ EA 3 minutes to pull faxes and put them on his desk (she watched the fax like a hawk, it was the latest, fastest way to communicate in writing). My boss was borderline ADD, although everyone who works a major metal account eventually ends up seeming like they are ADD. He was constantly reading the latest fax and acting on it. Lord knows what a BB did to him.When the fax beeped delivered, I told my colleague Sue to ‘start the clock’. My phone rang 3:30 later.”Jesus Christ Harradence, what the hell is this………….” my boss was a bright guy, the light went on. “Ok, I’ll take care of it.”That weekend, I told my Pops that big company life was likely not for me.”I don’t mind arguing both sides of an issue (son of a lawyer & trained as a lawyer after all), but having to argue with myself in writing seems like a waste of time.”That one story of being able to time the phone ringing is about all I miss about working in Big Agency advertising & analog communications.

      1. William Mougayar

        Good old days 🙂

    2. Donna Brewington White

      “Typewriters for the Admin assistants”Er, don’t you mean secretaries?

      1. JamesHRH

        HP was pretty progressive in the 80’s…….might have been AAs & EAs.My first real job in 1990 had EAs in our head office.

        1. William Mougayar

          Yup. The Vancouver office of about 60 people had its own mini-computer room and operator. We would enter the sales orders there and they got transmitted via some private WAN to Palo Alto.

        2. Donna Brewington White

          My first full-time job was a receptionist — was supposed to be for a year and then go back to school but they kept promoting me so I finished my undergrad at night.For the first promotion, there was no job for what I was going to do, so they used a Secretary title to get me into a higher pay grade until they could create a job. My boss was very apologetic.

      2. William Mougayar

        yes…getting my 80’s vocabulary mixed up with the 90’s and 2010’s.

  9. awaldstein


    1. William Mougayar

      . ???

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Like @TheMime on Twitter. I sometimes RT him.

      2. awaldstein

        That is all I have to say about so far as life without email, i did my first IPO a without it. $1 a page for faxes in hotels and my bills were huge.

        1. William Mougayar

          you’re writing in code now? 🙂

    2. fredwilson

      now that’s saying something 🙂

  10. JimHirshfield

    Don’t EVEN mention the fax machine. Oiy.Other signs of the times:1. Full/formal first name2. Middle initial3. Midtown address

    1. Elia Freedman

      I had an issue with a company recently and to resolve it they asked me to fax a receipt. I said I don’t have a fax machine. They said it is the only way. So I asked, “What f’ing year is this? 1993?” The guy told me to hold on — I thought he was going to get indignant about my language — and came back a minute later with an email address.And this was a tech company!

      1. JimHirshfield

        Hahahah…”you’ll have to fill out this form in triplicate. Press down hard so that the carbon paper works.”Remember “carbon paper”????

        1. Elia Freedman

          Very young but yes, I do. I remember typing some report in fourth or fifth grade or something like that and accidentally putting the carbon paper in backward.

        2. JamesHRH

          “Press hard there’s 3 copies” is something I use as a euphemism for ‘think about this, you are committing yourself”.People under 40 look at me funny.Oh well, don’t FEEL like a dinosaur.

          1. pointsnfigures

            Or sniffing mimeographed sheets

        3. ShanaC


      2. Donna Brewington White

        That’s good. I sometimes have to convince people to let me take a photo or scan and email something instead of faxing. We’ll get them there eventually.

        1. Capitalistic

          I’ve come across bankers and tech guys who are oblivious to e-signing. People still FAX and PRINT documents :s

      3. ShanaC


      4. Vasudev Ram

        Should’ve asked him which century he was in …

    2. Aaron Klein

      My dad’s 1980s business cards had a “Telex” number on them. 🙂

      1. John Revay

        I once worked at a National accounting firm…one of my best friends made it to partner at the firm…we use to laugh at his bus card…..It listed 5-6 phone# if you wanted to call this guy – Stamford Office, NY Office, CT Cell, NY Cell…and 1 or 2 others…How bad does a client want to reach this guy!

        1. Aaron Klein

          That’s awesome.The focal point of my card is twitter and email. 🙂

      2. fredwilson

        wow. that’s cool.

        1. Vasudev Ram

          Early in my career I briefly saw Telexes and 8-inch floppy disks. They really did flop when you held them by one edge, hence the name. Then came 5.25-inch and then 3.5-inch floppies.

    3. LE

      When you have a name like Fred Wilson brand wise you really do need a middle initial. [1]For example take Donna.My opinion is that it’s great she is known as Donna Brewington White rather than just Donna White or even “Donna White”.[1] I have a client Bill Johnson [2] that is a movie producer. On imdb alone there are perhaps (he goes to check) at least 10 “Bill Johnsons”. I don’t think it’s helpful for name recognition in any business, let alone hollywood, to have such a generic name.[2] This guy:

      1. JimHirshfield

        You don’t see the irony in this coming from someone that goes by “LE”?;-)

        1. LE

          Oh that’s an absolutely thought out deliberate strategy. You also won’t find any pictures of me on the internet other than the picture in the avatar which strategically doesn’t show my face. That said it is definitely possible to figure out who I am of course but I’m not looking to spread my name around here.

          1. JimHirshfield

            I won’t tell.

    4. pointsnfigures

      Invested in a company in 2008. They were an electronic communications network for commercial construction. You can imagine what happened to the business in Sept of 2008. Anyhow, construction firms used faxes to communicate with each other-they didn’t even use email. Firms were paying a person to sit by the fax and answer and retrieve faxes. Even with all the stuff that happened, the business exited in 2012.

    5. fredwilson

      yeah, the formal full name is a bit shocking

  11. LIAD

    Frederick rocks.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Yeah, but he needs tweed and a pipe to pull it off.He could, actually.

      1. Elia Freedman

        “Professor” Frederick Wilson. Or maybe Dr.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Good luck with that.Hey I almost summoned you to let you know that you could actually comment before the 100th comment since Frederick posted in the afternoon. Checking foursquare I now know why. ;)Hopefully you have not been hitting the refresh button since early morning.

          1. Elia Freedman

            You are too funny. I was thinking that when I saw he hadn’t posted this morning. Must keep watching Fred’s site! I didn’t, though. Too many meetings today.

        2. Vasudev Ram

          To mix a metaphor or two:”Professor Wilson, I presume?”…http://www.eyewitnesstohist

      2. Elia Freedman

        Frederick Wilson, Esquire.

        1. JamesHRH

          I doubt he rolled that out when he met the Gotham Gal…..

    2. ShanaC

      i always think of Frederick the great when I hear that name…you can clearly see the german ancestry in the spelling 😀

      1. fredwilson

        middle name is Rehkopf. german for deer head, i believe

        1. Vasudev Ram

          Google Translate say:…”deer head” in English is “Hirschkopf” in German.Could be synonyms, of course. Doing the reverse translation – German to English, using Rehkopf as input, didn’t work.[ Tries some more … and gets:]Reh-/ noun /deer — Hirsch, Reh, Wild

    3. fredwilson

      Frederick Rehkopf WilsonRehkopf is my mom’s mother’s maiden name. She was an awesome woman. I am proud to have that middle name.

  12. pointsnfigures

    I remember when I got one of those AOL disks in my mailbox. We were some of the first people on the internet. We heard it was going to be a big thing-and there wasn’t anything there…..until Netscape. Had the first iPod too and my friends couldn’t believe it. I agree with Fred-like doing business these days better. The biggest problem is a lot of times, email winds up in a junk folder and you never see it.Wish they wouldn’t have gotten rid of the trading floor though. Most fun way to make money with your clothes on ever….In the co-op I used to live in, we used to give notes to the doorman and they would deliver them to other residents. Careful calligraphy in the lower corner of the envelope would state “by hand”. Throwback.

    1. ShanaC

      my parents kept those discs. they make great coasters 😀

  13. Donna Brewington White

    It looks so… bare.

    1. JamesHRH

      good design.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        I don’t think the design is that great.

  14. bradsvrluga

    I think the more interesting bit is that you were going by Frederick back then. Let’s bring that back!

    1. JamesHRH

      Or Freddy.I think if you never wear ties, Freddy beats Frederick.Eeryone in a serious profession went by full name on a business card back then – I had one with both my middle initials when I was an articling lawyer.

      1. fredwilson

        Jordy calls me Freddy. Always has. Not many do, but he does.

  15. Kirsten Lambertsen

    My favorite thing about my phone is the option not to answer it.

    1. William Mougayar

      If the phone doesn’t ring, it’s me 🙂

    2. bsoist

      My dad taught me years ago “if you ignore it, it will stop ringing”

  16. JamesHRH

    Digital communication blows.Sent by my Macbook Air, via fee Wifi, while sitting in the lounge of the Y while kids workout with the swim team, to a ‘cork message board’ that exists anywhere (as opposed to one that is outside Fred’s office that only 3 people a day would see).Think my first email address was thru a cable company, in about 1996.

  17. sigmaalgebra

    I stumbled onto an early version of e-mailbut didn’t see the advantages until it was a big thing.In the fall of 1980 I started as a B-schoolprof and in the first month on campus becamethe de facto Chair of the college computingcommittee and ASAP the real Chair.I had talked the college into picking the budget for carpet and draperies for thedepartment chairs to get the school anice super-mini computer — for teaching,word whacking, research computing.I was bitterly opposed by the university’sCIO. After the computer had done wellfor two months or so, I was appointed toa selection committee to pick a new CIO!We had several employees, students andrecent former students, working on thecomputer. Soon some of those employeesdid a good job writing software for a system to send solicitation letters to alumni! Likelythat system paid for the computer with anice profit! The printout was via daisywheel printers, and we loaded our ownfilm printer ribbons! Since the printers wererunning much of the work days, we gotsound proof boxes for the printers!The architecture of that alumni system wasquickly picked up by the CIO’s group andthen used broadly in the colleges of theuniversity. More money made!One of the better employees got us goingwith D. Knuth’s TeX. Nice work! Then soonthat employee got us going with e-mail,but I didn’t appreciate it at the time.Later at IBM, I saw that nearly all theadministrative computing for the companywas handled on about 3600 mainframecomputers running VM/CMS (virtualmachine — Conversational MonitorSystem ) scattered around the worldand connected point to point by Bisync lines. The result was calledV-NET. The computers acted asboth general purpose servers andpacket routers.Well, there with V-NET, e-mail was heavilyused. very heavily used. I still think thata good e-mail system has as its userinterface a good, programmable texteditor with a lot of good editor macros!Well, soon there was a presentation froma guest executive from elsewhere in thecompany, and one of the questions wasabout selling something like V-NET to customers. The executive was notpleased, thought that the idea was awful,and saw no ‘business case’.So, generally, people can be slow to catchon to the power of something like e-mail,even when they have powerful examplesright in front of them.

  18. LE

    Card stock appears to be classic linen gray. Printing appears to be regular offset, not raised letter (at least by the way the light doesn’t scatter). That’s my forensic analysis.Typography and design is consistent with a large or “important” type company.Phone number is ok. Better if it were 1700 or 1000.Most people didn’t realize that you could get a good phone number just by being persistent and/or nice to the phone company person. [1] I can always tell (even today) that some people are clued into having a easier phone number and know enough to put in the effort vs. a random set of digits.Although this definitely matters less today – it does still matter. Especially in some businesses.But “back in the day” it was really important. Putting in the extra effort to have a number that ended like “1100” or “7700” etc. that would look good in print advertising, yellow pages and business cards and made you seem like a “big” company. It really helped when you were starting out. [2] I landed a big contract a few years after I started because of a yellow page ad and phone number put me on par with Xerox (true story I won and Xerox lost the bid. They picked the bidders from YP ads.)[1] What you did was simply spend time dialing numbers to see what “wasn’t in service”. Then when you got phone service setup and they said “ok you can have 3454” you said “hey I see that 7500 is free can I have that”. And the clerk said “sure no problem”.[2] Jim Kramer’s father’s company on third street in Philly was “National Gift Wrap & Box”. The phone is/was 215-925-2300. At the time I walked in to cold call them (1981) it was a small company (not sure what it is today). Note also the use of “National Gift Wrap” as a name.

    1. JamesHRH

      Pretty good office address.

      1. LE

        Offices addresses can be tricky. Now of course those office services try to sell you a fancy address for a virtual or shared office but if you google it you can easily see it’s a shared office (or a UPS store even worse). I guess that fools my aunt though. (Not Fred’s it’s the real deal. Would assume the letterhead had the suite number. Or obv. the building staff routed w/o suite number. )Would have been a funny joke the day Fred showed up to give him a business card with one of those screwy addresses in Queens NY like “212-31 1/2 Jamaica Ave. Queens NY”. “this is where you are working Fred until you prove yourself”.

        1. JamesHRH

          My point was more – 50 Rock plaza, for real.

  19. Greg Gortz

    Im fascinated by the idea of doing business pre-internet (I have always been online in my career). It must have been such harder work back in the day, without access to the information the internet now provides.My dad has tells great tales about doing business, pre-internet/cell phones, checking in via pay phone on the side of the road to retrieve messages.Also, I cant help it, but Fred’s card made me think of this:

    1. LE

      I could come up with so many examples of how things are different. I remember when we got fax machines in the 80’s and what a leap forward that was.With programming I remember having to drive up to the Princeton U bookstore because computer books weren’t carried at regular bookstores. Not only did I get a speeding ticket but you didn’t have much to choose from. I typically would buy from 1 to 3 books on a topic so I could triangulate anything I didn’t understand from one book. And you would spend (or at least I would) 7 hours straight trying to get something to work with nobody to ask. Go to sleep and then take it up the next day. [1] It was actually part of the challenge and the fun.[1] I’m not a programmer but I bought a computer, unpacked it and got it working from the manuals that came with it and attached 10 wyse dumb terminals which I had wired throughout the office. I’ve posted the attached photo before. Note the system cost in 1985 dollars. Note that a 72mb hard disk was $7950 in 1985 dollars (less the discount I negotiated of course) and 2mb of ram was $4400. We had instant messaging on it. It was called “write” [2] (just like on linux and mac osx.). System ran Unix V.[2] This was used for important stuff. Like if an employee was interviewing a good looking girl I would text him my thoughts after seeing her walk into his office. That was back in the day when you could do stuff like that.CLICK ON PICTURE TO ENLARGE apparently that’s not obvious to everyone.

      1. Greg Gortz

        Amazing. Mind blown.

    2. ShanaC

      gorgeous to this day

    3. LE

      One more point that i want to make is that using computers back then (either tty and/or green dumb terminals) was fun fun fun. You could sit for hours and it was totally addictive. Right now for example I have three monitors on my desk (30/24/24) and can keep an unlimited number of terminal windows open. And have a bunch of other computers with screens that I use. But I distinctly remember how much fun it was to just have one little computer and one source of input/output. You would sit so long in the same position staring you would get a stiff neck.

    4. fredwilson


  20. Susan Rubinsky

    I have some clients who still have faxes. My response is typically, “really?” Also, I recently responded to an RFQ from a quasi-governmental agency that required bidders to submit a form by fax. There was no contact information whatsoever, except a fax number. I was appalled.

    1. Dale Allyn

      I have a fax line and use it fairly regularly – though not nearly as often as years ago. Mostly inbound stuff from contacts who aren’t real tech-savvy, but some outbound as well. Also, my daughter’s doctors all supply documents (lab slips, lab results, etc.) via fax – even those with email options. Fax is more secure/private.

  21. Allen Lau

    This old biz card had 5 things on it: physical address, landline phone number, fax, full name with middle name and company name.Here is my biz card. It has my short name (without middle initials), email address (which implies the company name), title, mobile number, Twitter and my Wattpad profile.There is absolutely nothing in common!I wonder twenty years from now what a typical biz card would look like. Perhaps no one will use biz card anymore.

    1. ShanaC

      not until batteries get better

    2. fredwilson

      so great!

  22. JLM

    .Do not tell me stories about old school business practices unless you actually dialed a rotary phone, ya’ll.I love the “Frederick”. It’s just so…….JLM.

    1. awaldstein

      Or carried around an acoustic coupler modem in your suitcase.

      1. JLM

        .Haha, good one, Arnold.Jeff

      2. Jim Ritchie

        Or taken a full size Sun 3 Workstation on sales calls (pre laptops) to do your software demo. To make a flight it would be packed in a hard sided case that weighed > 80lbs so to avoid having to ship airfreight I would tip the curbside check-in guy $20. I’d haul the case around on a collapsible dolly. This was circa 1989 and I travelled > 100k miles one year this way.

        1. Jim Ritchie

          I did have email though! First email for business use in 1987.

        2. LE

          I once was on a sales call with two other guys and the front desk guard said “sorry equipment has to go in the loading dock”. While still moving I took out my wallet and gave him $10 or $20 and kept walking didn’t even stop to see if he would take it. The other guys were in awe I guess they never learned to grease any palms.

          1. Jim Ritchie

            Taking hardware into certain companies could be a pain, especially DoD related. This was back in days of working in Sunnyvale near Maude and Mathilda and when Sun/SGI/PCs started killing off DEC and the mini-computer companies.

          2. LE

            SGI Indy. I still have about 6 in storage for some stupid reason.I wonder how many people know Maynard Mass or who Ken Olson was.When I went to SV in the early 90’s the first thing that struck me was how it just looked like an ordinary suburb.Best store ever. Weird Stuff Warehouse near Fry’s (2nd best store ever).

          3. Jim Ritchie

            I think Weird Stuff used to be off Lawrence Expressway.

        3. awaldstein

          Great and love trading these war stories.The Sound Blaster was my product for the Americas and Europe. Full size ISA card. We hauled luggable Doches around with a monitor with a full audio system to every interview around the world. Basically for 3 years straight with a once a month stopover in Singapore to see my boss.Lots of work and fun but we did sell 79 million of them.Thanks to the opportunity to tell this one 😉

        4. Jim Ritchie

          And also while wearing a full suit, tie and nicely polished black wingtip shoes. I don’t even wear a suit to weddings anymore. I do wear my Tux to the SF Opera though!

          1. ShanaC

            you should talk to @sigmaalgebra:disqus – he loves opera

          2. Jim Ritchie

            Not so much that I love opera, I like some operas, but my wife is on the Board of the SF Opera so it kind of makes it mandatory for me.

          3. ShanaC


      3. LE

        Had a tty at home that I used to communicate with the computer at school. One day I tape recorded the chatter. Then I played it back into the coupler. It printed everything out. The tones were slow enough that that actually worked.Here’s one for you. I subscribed to D&B for credit checking. A potential customer would call on the phone and I would dial by modem (1200 baud) to D&B and see how large of a company they were (and whether they were 5A1 etc.) in order to assess how much effort and how good pricing I should give them and what degree of suck up was in order. All while they were on the phone. The modem was hooked up to the unix system so it was available to anyone with a terminal.

        1. awaldstein

          Good one.i worked for Racal for a bit introducing their home modem. Of course, Hayes thoroughly kicked us hard in that market.Win some but not that one..

          1. LE

            Yeah Hayes had that command set. Nothing like the sound of a successful modem negotiation.You should do a series of posts like Steve Blank does about lessons learned in and around those things.

          2. awaldstein

            Actually a good idea.Worked early in the Atari turnaround under Jack Tramiel.Built the multi media marketplace with CREAFTried to build the home/business modem marketplace against Hayes.Tried to build the desktop editing system against Avid.Built some of the earliest avatar communities with Turner.Web performance metrics at Keynote systems. Auction technologies behind ecommerce and supply chain monitor with Accenture. Voip telephony3D in the movie bizOy! Feeling like its time to crack a bottle of Trousseau and relax!

          3. LE

            One of the best, the story of the video spigot. I was at Supermac at the time.…The guy I worked for (the VP of Sales, Blank was VP of marketing) didn’t even know what a Syquest disk was. I was blown away. Steve was really harsh. Not the gentle guy he is now.This is one of the companies that I worked for that gave me early insight into my “low hanging fruit of opportunity” theory of business.

          4. awaldstein

            Of course I remember the spigot and supermac.Lessons learned from brick and mortar channels are like scars from the streets. Creates market memory that never goes away and never is static.

    2. LE

      Can’t you do any better than that? Is that all you have?I programmed a device to generate tones for those phones and built it from parts from radio shack.Actually that’s a lie. But I did buy a device to make tones. And I walked by a Holiday Inn express today.Those rotary phones made of bakelite, as I’ve pointed out before, were “murder weapon” grade. Heavy and tough. I’ve got one in my office right now.

      1. JLM

        .Haha, good one, LE.When I was in the Army overseas we used to try to use the MARS system which “skipped” back to the continental US. Had to have good cloud cover over the oceans to work right.One time I was on OIC duty and a guy was making a call to ascertain whether he had had a boy or a girl. For some reason this was important to him. This was the only damn phone in the entire battalion.The phone kept dying on him until finally he just beat the phone into one of those old GI wooden desks completely dismantling the desk. Literally destroying it.Unbelievably, the phone worked just fine thereafter.I let him cool down and then made him burn the desk in the stove. He had the whole damn thing burned up before dawn. The CSM wanted to know what had happened to the CQ’s desk. I told him to go see Sgt Carter.Those phones were killers.JLM.

    3. LE

      Manual typewriter. Followed by an IBM Selectric. Nothing like the sound of the selectric. Not even your red car sounded better than a selectric typing away. Not even a woman ….

    4. panterosa,

      I still have a rotary phone! Luckily it was upgraded from the hardwire to a jack wire. It is there for things like hurricane Sandy. I have my grandmother’s silver Tiffany dialer. She lost the tip of her finger as a child. It is such a genteel object, and so correctly reflects what a lady she was.

      1. Cynthia Schames

        You are so fancy. <3

        1. panterosa,

          Lillian was so fancy, and so lovely. She used to have her bread and butter calls in the morning Рher friends thanking her for hosting them, or talking about the soir̩e night before. After she had a half grapefruit with a silver grapefruit spoon. She was the one who got me obsessed with good silver, and happily left me some, which stays chez maman who uses it.

    5. fredwilson

      we had pens with these rubber things on the top of them that you could turn upside down and dial the rotary phone with

      1. JLM

        .Do you remember the sound that the phone made as each number rotated back to the starting position? It was an iconic sound.I used to use the bottom of 7.62 MM machine gun cartridge casings. I used to keep a cup full of them on my desk. I loved the smell of the cordite.JLM.

        1. fredwilson

          haven’t heard that sound in a long time!

          1. Cynthia Schames

            That sound was actually really satisfying.Just realized that skeumorphism applies to sounds as well–for example, the original keyboard clicks on the first iphone.

      2. Donna Brewington White

        rubber things — you mean erasers?

    6. Donna Brewington White

      with the end of a pencil

  23. Tracey Jackson

    I haven’t and collected the messages on our house phone in a year. The only people who call on the land line are tele-marketers or our parents.

    1. LE

      My parents still have two land lines from back when we were growing up and us kids had our own line.But they both have cell phones. So why do they need two landlines? (one is good for geezer emergencies imho).Oh yeah and also a fax line. Because all people in their late 80’s need dedicated fax lines.They also won’t deal with any online banks and all that jazz. [1] [2][1] Glad we don’t do things like that with our kids, huh!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe I should ask my kids “hey what weird shit do I do”?[2] But yet my dad just ran out to get the new iphone5s. Like he really needs that.

      1. ShanaC

        my grandfather has a land line, and still no computer…

        1. LE

          Why don’t you set one up for him?

          1. ShanaC

            he’s a 90+ year old holocaust survivor who still runs a real estate business and keeps refusing when anyone in the family offers. We’re tried over a dozen times. May he live to 120, but still, I suspect he will never get one.

          2. LE

            Great. My dad is a 90 year old holocaust survivor that had a macintosh in 1985 and has all sorts of shit going on with computers. He also does real estate.That said I’ve never done snowboarding so who am I to judge?

    2. ShanaC

      what about checking for your parents

      1. Tracey Jackson

        I check them daily. I should check my comments for typos is what should check!

  24. ShanaC

    errr. I don’t remember this time period. and I think I am finally get my first set of business cards. I don’t even know what will be on them. And I am half sure that it might not have even my good voice number on it, but it might have my skype

    1. fredwilson

      #disqusfeaturerequestdisplay the instagram photo when a link to instagram is posted

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Good point re: embed – your pic/narrative is what prompted me to recall a photo of one of my oldest business cards from circa 1992; here is the reverse of it – as a screen grab to obviate Instagram none display issue – which used to cause much puzzlement back then as it cited both an email address (uucp!) AND a cellphone number – a proper mobile ‘phone – ie, bolted to the dashboard of my Golf GTi.Seems a long time ago…

  25. ttasterisco

    Hm, apparently Fred submitted 2 different posts. Daniel Lemire wrote something that I feel might complement what Fred wrote

  26. takingpitches

    Frederick -> FredRockefeller Center -> Flatiron/Union SquareGood all around!

  27. Bruce Warila

    I began my business life in the auto recycling industry (junk yards). Twenty years ago, to search for a part (1988 Cutlass Left Front Door), you picked up a party-line phone that connected you to 200-300 junk yards – live and on speakerphone. After a short delay, wholesale price replies came back over a loud office speaker using codewords (think Navaho Code Talkers) that waiting customers couldn’t readily understand.. Lots of fun.



  29. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I agree with the general usefulness of emails but as some pointed out – in B2B sales the phone number is critical! Also on a personal level, I am starting to move away from doing multiple back/forth emails and just grab the phone and talk to the person. Usually that settles things in 5 minutes that would have take a number of back/forth emails!

  30. John Revay

    “Frederick R. Wilson” , Euclid Partners Corporation, 50 RockI much better like the Fred 2.0 brandFred Wilson, Union Square Ventures, Union Square

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, there was the intermediate stepFred Wilson, Flatiron Partners, Flatiron Districtthat was actually the big moveUSV is more of an evolution and strengthening

  31. jason wright

    …or is it cultural?accent is still a key socio-economic marker in many societies, but in the US all are created equal and the phone is therefore redundant.p.s. the business card and the fax are still important when doing business in Japan.p.p.s. R=?

  32. calculman

    Just wait till everyone will get a direct brain connection. They will ask you : “what ? you were typing words on a keyboard ? What is a keyboard ?”

  33. Tom Labus

    I don’t know about the speed. I remember some companies that moved very fast with just phones and faxes. It’s relative the culture of the co.

  34. Capitalistic

    I think phone calls are best for pleasantries. I prefer email and sms, for the reasons you pointed out.

  35. ErikSchwartz

    The thing that immediately struck me about that card is that I have no idea what you do from looking at it.

  36. alg0rhythm

    While I certainly don’t want to constantly answer the phone from people I don’t know… you don’t feel anything is lost… I can’t remember what it was called, but there was a ranking on effective communication types. print advertising was like a 1, phone was like a 5 and in person was like a 10, and subsequent meetings would be more or less. I am guesstimating the numbers. It seems like today we have given up on the other channels of marketing them or evaluating these much at all. In places like New York, there’s tons and tons of face to face and random opportunities for any particular vertical/industry type.

  37. jesus santiago

    interesante que con el correo electronico se puede hacer muchas cosas de negocio laboral bendiciones.

  38. drnbhashyam

    With internet wrapping the whole globe land lines and letters have become obsolete …in a decade or too post offices will museum piece antics …