Video Of The Week: My Velocity Talk

I posted the talk here on Tuesday, but during my delivery I ad libbed a fair bit with some stories which, of course, made the talk a lot better. It's about 15 minutes long.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Dave Pinsen

    I like the screen cap on the video. Looks like you’re casting a spell.

    1. Cynthia Schames

      AHAHAHAHA!!! Dave, that made my morning.

    2. fredwilson

      i was. i forced them to laugh at my bad jokes

    3. Vineeth Kariappa

      Professor Fred Wilson Dumbledore

  2. William Mougayar

    I watched it live last Tuesday. Too bad there was no Q&A. How big was the audience?

    1. fredwilson

      good sized audience. maybe 400-500

      1. kidmercury

        and to think a few years ago you were playing open mics to anyone who would listen. now you are selling out small clubs. the garden can’t be far off!!!

        1. JLM

          .Truth and funny too. Keen observation. No net and no bouncer.Well played.JLM.

          1. fredwilson

            kid is the bouncer at this bar

    2. Vasudev Ram

      Yes, I was hoping there would be Q&A – would have made it more interesting (though it already was interesting). Too little time I guess.

  3. jason wright

    where are the bikes? any parking lockers?

    1. fredwilson

      broadway and w 55th is the closest citibike station to the Hilton where i gave the talk

  4. jerrycolonna

    nice work buddy. the stories are great.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks Jerry for all your help with this talk

      1. jerrycolonna

        My favorite is still the notion that there’s no such thing as a “world class CEO” who’s a silver bullet fix. The persistence of that myth makes me crazy. We saw back when we were young ‘uns. Hell, I believed it for a long time. Makes me crazy when I hear people perpetuating that now, undermining the need for real hard-core leadership development.

        1. PhilipSugar

          Agree completely. I think the same thing about turning the team before you are scaling. I.e. we don’t have enough sales lets hire a really expensive world class business dev person.I really like your blameless analysis when you come across something that didn’t work. That is the core strength of a small company. I watch it each time after I sell a small company to a really big one. At the small company we made a decision literally in the hallway and ruthlessly implement. If it turned out to be the wrong one, we would immediately admit it, change it, and ruthlessly implement the change.At the big company, we would have endless meetings, finally come to a watered down decision, work on it between interruptions of other meetings, and then have to cover ass from the detractors and spend tons of time promoting its success regardless of the truth in order to keep working on it.My favorite example was when we were showing the history of this robot we built that a huge company licensed to sell to the military. We wanted to show where it came from. We showed the first prototype. A huge company engineer mumbled under his breath: “I would have got fired if I had made that” I stopped and said, exactly, exactly, we were willing to take risks and fail and that is why we are both here right now.

          1. LE

            “If it turned out to be the wrong one”Along those lines the people who work for large companies and are able to rise in the ranks with all of the politics has always fascinated me.I guess it is not only talent, good health, a cooperative spouse and family, ambition, and being able to navigate people skillfully, but also being the lucky sperm that makes it in to fertilize the egg. Enough sperm trying and something usually gets to be the top dog.It’s a far cry from running your own show. When it doesn’t really matter who gets credit or whose idea it was. In the end if it puts money in your pocket that is all that matters. Which is why I think it’s much easier to admit you were wrong. Or to not care about credit. Feel free to give me a tip or help if it gets me to where I want to go.Fred openly solicits thoughts and ideas from others. In the end it doesn’t matter if it was his idea, someone he met, someone who said something on, or something Gotham Gal suggested or helped with. Or the cab driver.That said I can fully understand why working for a large company it isn’t and can’t be that way. Because the reward system is different so the behavior is different.

        2. JLM

          .Leadership development as the basis for long term leadership is an art not a science.At the end of the Viet Nam war when it became obvious to the professional officer corp — the Regulars who had gone to the academies and who were in for the duration — that the Army was in chaos as it made the change from a draftee Army to an all volunteer Army, we almost lost the Army in places like Germany.The Army in Germany in the late 1970s was so infected with drug and race problems that it literally was not combat ready. Officers who had come from combat were aghast. The Russians could have come across the northern German plains any time they wanted to.A handful of enlightened Regulars — many of whom ultimately wore 4 stars — made the volunteer Army work and work well.There is much to debate as to whether we should have a conscript or volunteer force but what is not debatable is that the Army that resulted from these efforts was the best in the world. Continues to have good bones but is war weary and lacking leadership from the WH just now.I belabor this point to state that guys like Petreaus and other 4-stars were junior officers at this time. They had been identified as “talent” but in many instances they had missed Viet Nam and really had to wait until the Gulf Wars to test their leadership.They had been groomed carefully for high command and when their time came, they were pretty damn good.As a Regular in that time period who got out after 5 years, I had bumped into many of these at service schools. The Regulars were a very small handful — likely less than 1,000 per year group.It was the Army’s investment in leadership develop that bore fruit — basic course, advanced course, C & GS college, Army War College, advanced degrees, hand picked assignments (WH Fellow, WP prof, aide de camp to General officers).CEO development is similar. It is way overlooked.JLM.

        3. panterosa,

          Isn’t the trick of the magician to make it look so? Meanwhile, it’s still the wizard of Oz, lots of levers behind curtains.

        4. LE

          “The persistence of that myth”Tendency of the world (the press and now bloggers) to want to pedastal-lize things. Very black and white thinking. That things are either good or they are bad. Halo effect and all of that.

          1. pointsnfigures

            Business schools in America must change. Just read a great book, The Entrepreneurial Imperative. Talks about a lot of relevant stuff-but the point about business schools and leadership the book makes are interesting. First, base the curriculum on hard economics. Second, teach strategy differently, with a bent on technology. Third, teach leadership with an eye on risk/reward.

        5. Dave Pinsen

          Given that, what’s the point of 8 and 9 figure compensation packages for big company CEOs? Wouldn’t that money have a greater impact if it were used to hire and incentivize 10 or 100 or more key line employees (salesmen, product developers, etc.)?

          1. JamesHRH

            No. 1 out of 20/50/100 BigCo CEOs actually drive measureable results that justify those #s.It the others that are the problem.

          2. jerrycolonna

            I always liked what Ben and Jerry did where their compensation was a fixed low multiple of the lowest wage earner at Ben and Jerrys .

  5. WA

    Lesson planning it into the class for Tuesday night. Soul food.

  6. PhilipSugar

    We always said it was easier to teach a compsci person about marketing versus teaching a marketing person compsi

    1. LE

      That’s interesting. I would have guessed the opposite but I suppose it depends on what you mean by “teach” or “learn”.Marketing is nuance and compsci is precise. Learning something that is precise is more like learning a foreign language. Takes memory more than judgement.I was just critiquing something that my daughter did for a college class. I told her what I thought and some generalizations but followed up with some examples of where the generalizations wouldn’t hold. While you could say there is nuance in compsci my point is that it is much less so than in marketing.

      1. Jeffrey Hartmann

        I actually completely disagree with you here, I would contend that there is at least as much nuance in compsci compared to marketing if not considerably more. Both are very much art forms and compsci is most definitely not precise in the sense there is one way to do things or rules that always hold. There are hundreds of ‘right’ ways to do things, and each one has many tradeoffs. Faster to implement, more performance, easier to understand, more flexible, a clever hack with duct tape and bailing wire. Plenty of things that look like the right answer as well. compsci is full of art and nuance, and the best software engineers understand this dance and can make machines accomplish what they want. Marketing is definitely the same in that it is subtle and tricky and there are hundreds of right answers, and a razor thin edge between wrong and right at times.

        1. LE

          I don’t disagree that there can be an “art” to compsci. (Like with anything).But the “science” part (and the predictability) is of a much higher level.Because you are dealing with things that react in a very specific way. In no way can I agree that there is “as much nuance … if not considerably more” that with something like marketing.From the wikipedia definition of computer science:Computer Science (abbreviated CS or CompSci) is the scientific and practical approach to computation and its applications. It is the systematic study of the feasibility, structure, expression, and mechanization of the methodical processes (or algorithms) that underlie the acquisition, representation, processing, storage, communication of, and access to information, whether such information is encoded in bits and bytes in a computer memory or transcribed engines and protein structures in a human cell.[1] A computer scientist specializes in the theory of computation and the design of computational systems.Notice that it says “scientific and practical”.With respect to marketing:Marketing is the process of creating, communicating and delivering value to customers. From a societal point of view, marketing is the link between a society’s material requirements and its economic patterns of response. Marketing satisfies these needs and wants through exchange processes and building long term relationships. Marketing can be looked at as an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, delivering and communicating value to customers, and managing customer relationships in ways that also benefit the organization and its shareholders. Marketing is the science of choosing target markets through market analysis and market segmentation, as well as understanding consumer buying behavior and providing superior customer value.I re-read what you said above a few times and there is definitely truth to what you are saying. I will also agree that I was over generalizing by saying “compsci” is precise. When I meant (and still stand by) that it is more precise (because what you are working with is more predictable) than with marketing or anything that has to take into account human nature. (Which of course compsci does but not as much. In my opinion.)

  7. mikenolan99

    Making vegetable hash and over easy eggs for my wife and a house guest… great video to keep me company…

    1. fredwilson

      Ooh. Do you put sriracha or Tabasco on the hash?

      1. mikenolan99

        Belizian Hot Sauce – Marie Sharps…

        1. fredwilson

          I gotta try that

          1. mikenolan99

            When we run out, we know its time to go back… looks like a Christmas trip for us this year!

          2. PhilipSugar

            My wife really, really wants to go. I think I will be there this Christmas.Any tips?

          3. kidmercury

            you going mainland or to the keys?i went in august to the keys (ambergris caye). not sure if it’s snorkeling appropriate during christmas time, but that was the highlight for me. also, there are mayan ruins in the mainland. i enjoyed that.standard rules for situational awareness apply in belize city. the keys are more laid back, though at night it will get the creepy “there aren’t many people or lights around” vibe. armed security is common at the resorts in the keys. i wasn’t fancy enough to stay at a placed with armed security, but i was near one, and enjoyed the benefits that spilled over.

          4. mikenolan99

            We mostly hang out in Ambergris or Caye Caulker – not a fan of Belize City. We’ve done all the adventures – the ruins (Lamanai is my favorite), cave tubing, the black hole drop, etc. Once a monkey got in our boat.…We mostly hang out on the islands. Not much crime, just use common sense. We’ve done 50+ trips – and my wife lived there for four months last year doing her dissertation research in the schools in San Pedro.I love August in San Pedro – not many US folks, but many European’s and Central American tourist. Costa Maya festival is a blast, and we get to hang out with our local friends.Here is a post about Lobster fishing with Tony.http://www.askbetterquestio

          5. andyidsinga

            LOVED Lamanai!

          6. mikenolan99

            If anyone wants specific blelize recommendations, let me know – mike.e.nolan (a.t)… would love to help.

          7. andyidsinga

            sweet – I know we’ll be back. We totally loved belize. We did a diy vacation – rented a car and flew around too. Love every second of it, people, everything!

          8. andyidsinga

            we went to Belize in april – *LOVED IT*. Stayed to Ambergris Caye – went diving and snorkling.Stayed in Bermudian landing @ “howler monkey resort”, (checked out howler monkeys). went to Lamanai and cave tubing.Stayed in Hopkins, more snorkling and fishing.

      2. kidmercury

        siding with tabasco in this beef

        1. pointsnfigures

          siracha is awesome.

          1. fredwilson

            siding with pointsnfigures in this beef

  8. mikenolan99

    “I’d rather have a hole in my organization than an ________” worth watching the video just to fill in the blank!

    1. jason wright


  9. youflavio

    As usual, very good insights Fred. I would like to know your views on innovation/startup stuff within larger organizations too.

    1. fredwilson

      I have never worked in a company larger than 20 peopleThat’s not my area of expertise

      1. pointsnfigures

        If a corporation is set up right, you rarely interface with more than twenty. 3M always did that.

  10. jason wright

    who does the freeze framing?a caption competition would be fun for a Friday

  11. Louis Johnson IV

    Very inspirational Keynote! Though I suspect most of that audience was IT-oriented, I found a lot of your comments and stories had merit in other engineering and business scenarios. We’re a small startup thinking along the lines of infrastructure development, very large-scale projects, yet it is understood that keeping the smaller management and project components in check is key to moving forward successfully as they are integrated.

  12. andyidsinga

    We’re doing continuous integration on our current project at work.Its really interesting to go through the process of convincing people in the larger organization that we can throw away the “alpha / beta / gold” release cycle.

  13. Matt A. Myers

    The “redundancy being a good thing” line was great. Ha!

    1. fredwilson

      that’s improv

      1. Matt A. Myers

        If you had planned that one and executed it so smoothly, then I’d say you should change careers to comedian. 🙂

  14. Emeri Gent [Em]

    Tech-ops as a function is not a systems view but tech-ops taken as a systems view is, so I agree the systems perspective is the way to go.The majority of CEO decisions are still made on the basis of functional premise. For example, someone from marketing or sales may ascend to the CEO position because of their perceived understanding of the customer as the organizations primary business objective.Likewise, a financial person because of their understanding of money is viewed as a strategic choice, or an HR person for an understanding of people is seen leading a people centric organization etc. etc.While the trend I do think will favour numerati in the future (of which engineers are a subset), the important point from a systems view, (whether it be called systems engineering, systems thinking or complex systems) – is that the best CEO in the 21st Century has an understanding of how “everything connects to everything”.The paradox of such a CEO is finding that kind of renaissance woman or man. When we examine systems views from a functional level we are still looking at the part and not the whole.Where continuous development is important is that it is an example of a mindset that see’s everything’s relationship to everything, rather than functional interaction of the system through a particular type of professional lens.For me, the beauty of looking at things from a whole system perspective is that when one learns to see things that way, we know something special has occurred when we recognize that we would never go back to the way we used to see, because we learned to see a systems perspective, it is hard to imagine ever going back to the way we used to do things.The fact that there is lean approaches, complex adaptive views, systems engineering all are an indicator that we are looking towards an emergent view – here I love what Ralph D. Stacey thinks of that from an organizational point of view and his thinking can be found here [Managing the Unknowable] :…Any form of emergent exploration seems like a natural phase of organizational development, and what is important is how we map these developments – so that we see that what Fred is talking about in terms of how tech-ops “learn to see” things differently through a systems view, also fits a broader and wider pattern of transformations, and this transformation is an emergence.That emergence is what “Emeri Gent” is about and that is why I love this talk, such a view is messy, and does not come in neat bows of certainty.[Em]

  15. george

    Really enjoy watching your conference chats, you always had so much value. On one point mentioned – the silver-bullet CEO; that person is enormously rare, but there are a few great ones out there, and occasionally, they can change the game. I believe leadership is critical – it’s important that the developer(s) have an equal amount of focus on results and not just on process.

  16. JamesHRH

    hey AVcers. In London this week. Suggestions?

    1. pointsnfigures

      Indian food there is best on the planet.

      1. Tom Labus

        Go over by the Inn of Courts area. Very interesting history all the way back to when it was controlled by the Templars

    2. Cam MacRae

      Check out Boxpark next to Shoreditch High Street station before a curry on Brick Lane.

  17. David Semeria

    I really liked this talk, Fred – I think it’s one of your best.My key takeaways:- The tech ops = mgmt ops is a first for me and I think it works- Loved that you quoted another VC (AZ) in your talk. A sign of quality- And AZ is totally on the money: IT is hard, DCF is easy.- Summize incorporating Twitter (in IT terms) was both new news and interesting- The assehole quote will go down in history.- Jerry’s fear theorem makes complete senseAbove all, what comes across is that scaling is hard.You can pre-plan IT scaling but you can’t pre-plan people scaling.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks David. I am a big fan of Marc and Ben. they have brought new thinking and new approaches to the VC business and they have made it better

  18. Keenan

    Great stuff, lots of good parallels for sales;1) fear based selling organizations are fucked, and unfortunately fear has been part of sales leadership DNA for years, needs to stop2) get rid of the asshole “rainmaker” too many sales organizations are afraid to can their top producer. What they don’t recognize is he/she (almost always a dude though) is causing more damage than the good the extra revenue they are bringing in.3) They’re isn’t a “silver bullet” salesguy. That one killer guy from your competition, that badass from Fortune 10 company isn’t going to save your cookies. It takes a lot of little things.4) don’t let one thing take down the entire system, too often sales org’s become too dependent on technology, sales enablement etc. and everything comes grinding to a hault when they fail.

  19. Vasudev Ram

    Very good talk, Fred. Apart from the subject itself, I also like the way you made in fit into the short time available, and flowed smoothly from one point to the next.

    1. fredwilson