The Perception Of Conflict Is Conflict

VC is a service business like law firms and ad agencies. Our customers are the entrepreneurs we back. Our shareholders are our limited partners. When we do a good job of helping our customers create value, our shareholders benefit.

But, like law firms and ad agencies, it is hard to provide truly objective and unbiased advice when you have a conflict of interest. In the law and advertising business, clients will demand that their service providers don’t work for their competitors. The same is mostly true of entrepreneurs and VCs. There is no language in the stock purchase agreements we sign with our portfolio companies preventing us from investing in a competitor. But there is an understanding about conflict avoidance and breaching that understanding can have negative reputational consequences.

The problem that arises is that conflct is not the same to everyone. As I said to an entrepreneur yesterday, “conflict is in the eye of the beholder.” This entrepreneur had pitched me on his business via email and I told him it sounded a lot like one of our portfolio companies. He was shocked as he didn’t (and doesn’t) see it. A few months later, he went to see the Gotham Gal about making an angel investment in his company. She pointed out the exact same conflict to him. Again he was surprised. So he emailed me yesterday about the situation and I pointed out that not everyone sees conflict in the same light. But I went on to point out that the perception of conflict is conflict.

When someone feels that something you invest in is encroaching on his or her territory, you have created a perception of conflict with that entrepreneur. Even if he or she is dead wrong about that, it doesn’t really matter because they are now in conflict with you in their own mind and they won’t listen to you the same way again. And that is the most powerful leverage point a VC has when making an investment. If you cannot get an entrepreneur to listen to you objectively and rationally, then you have lost your greatest hope of postively impacting that investment. And that is a tool that VCs should not throw away lightly.

So the meta point I am making in this post is that it isn’t the facts that matter when discussing conflict. It is the perception that matters. If anyone in a relationship with you percieves that you are in a conflicted situation, you are in a conflicted situation whether you agree with them or not. Your only choice is to try to convince them otherwise before you obligate yourself to the conflict situation. Once you’ve obligated yourself, it is too late.

A friend in the VC business told me yesterday that he thinks this is the biggest issue top VCs face. Because they get to see the most interesting investment opportunities, but the opportunity cost of saying yes to an investment is that they take themselves out of the running for everything else in that category going forward. I agree that conflict issues are large and need to be front and center in everyone’s minds when making an investment decision. But I also think that large markets are large and there are ways to slice them up in ways that do avoid conflict. And if you can get an entrepreneur comfortable, you can make multiple investments in a large space. We made five or six social media investments. We’ve made a similar number of crowdfunding investments. I would like to make a large number of bitcoin related investments. If you think carefully upfront about how these markets will likely segment themselves over time, and if you can make that case upfront (not after the fact) to an entrepreneur, I think you can navigate this tricky issue.

But the thing you have to keep in your mind first and foremost is that perception is reality. And managing that is the most important thing of all.

#entrepreneurship#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Jordan

    I assume that everyone I talk to about my business is double-dealing, hedging, diversifying, and otherwise pursuing their own interests in the same way I am. Saves a lot of heartache.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s a very cynical way to live

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Reminds me of the adage “Live by the sword, die by the sword.”

        1. Andrew Kennedy

          that adage always makes me think of hedge funds.

    2. Shoe On Head

      trustworthiness and integrity is the most valuable business commodity

    3. Donna Brewington White

      Sounds as though you are creating your own reality.

    4. WA

      Negative halo. Matter of perception. Perception is reality. Change your perception…change your reality.

    5. leapy

      Sounds like a ton of heartache..

  2. William Mougayar

    It’s up to the entrepreneur to properly manage your perception by how they communicate and explain their opportunity. Otherwise, they risk being subjected to your own interpretation of it, which is reality.Managing expectations is also important. When expectations meet reality, perceptions are removed.

    1. awaldstein

      We are all subjected to others interpretation of what we do and say.I think the best VCs learn to to listen, as most people, entrepreneurs or not, are simply poor at this.One reason why on stage pitching is really a performance where the craft of selling is as important as what you sell. A poor platform for most.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Do you really think that the perception can be managed? It is hard to know what’s in the other person’s head. Expectations, yes.

      1. William Mougayar

        To some extent. I think it depends how well you understand who you are dealing with, no?

        1. Donna Brewington White

          Yes, that makes sense — how well you understand the person and the situation. As I thought about it some more, there are different layers of perception — the lower the commitment or response required then the easier it is to manage perceptions. And I’m making a distinction between influencing perception and managing. Influencing perception is something anyone does who must be at all persuasive at any level.

    3. Brandon Burns

      When you don’t see conflict, it’s hard to anticipate someone else seeing it and prepare to play defense because you’re not even thinking about it.

      1. William Mougayar

        The more you know a person, the more you can be prepared to meet their needs. Same as dealing with a customer.

        1. JamesHRH

          Except Brandon does not know anyone from Etsy, so how can he know that they will perceive a conflict?@Brandon_Burns:disqus

          1. William Mougayar

            I was thinking about knowing Fred & USV, not Etsy.

  3. LIAD

    Plays a little into NLP’s view of the world.’The meaning of your communication is the response you get’It doesn’t matter what your intentions are or how you mean things to come across. All that matters is what the other person ascribed to them.Words don’t have absolute meaning. The meaning of your words is what others understand them to be, not what you intended them to understand.#just-sayin.

    1. Anne Libby

      This is so true, and particularly true when emailing, posting online, Twitter, etc.I have had many many conversations — work and personal — about not using email to try to come to agreement on anything much weightier than a meeting time.It seems that I have to prove this one to myself every so often, by failing to listen to my own advice, and having my “perfectly crafted” words received in a way I couldn’t have intended.

      1. awaldstein

        What you say doesn’t matter at all. What is heard does.

        1. panterosa,

          @JLM:disqus says repeat back to me what you heard….

          1. Anne Libby

            Yes, great technique. Or, when listening, to say, “What I thought you just said was (x), did I hear you?”Both mostly practical face to face, or on the phone.

          2. panterosa,

            In therapy this is called mirroring no?You can hear someone perfectly and still not agree!

          3. Anne Libby

            So true.

          4. Donna Brewington White

            “Active listening” FTW!Is it still called that?

          5. Anne Libby

            I’m not sure if anyone has updated the name, and I can’t remember where I picked it up. I do remember that it took me many years to put into practice. (Much to the detriment of some relationships!)

          6. sigmaalgebra

            In ‘PET — Parent Effectiveness Training’,that’s called ‘reflective listening’ or somesuch. JLM is fully correct here about bothwhat to do and its importance, but it’s notreally a new idea.

        2. Matt A. Myers

          Well, this is why prototypes that people can play with are so valuable – it allows people create their own story around them.

    2. WA

      Yep. Sometimes better to remember to hear the music and get beyond the words. An understanding of labeling theory, the ability to recognize when it is happening and un-anchor biases associated helps clarify much between parties.

  4. Kay

    It’s funny. The problem you describe for the perception of conflict is exactly the problem bitcoin solves for the basic concept of currency. Bitcoin enables a network of peers to agree on one common truth without having to trust each oher or relying on a third party. This truth is achieved by settling all transactions in a public ledger called the block chain. However, there is no blockchain for conflict, at least so far. The bottom line of your post is that because there is no achievable common truth for conflict, the perception of conflict by anyone of the peers already establishes the presence of conflict for everyone. Maybe we’ll see these problems solved by Bitcoin smart contracts in the future.

    1. fredwilson

      “There is no blockchain for conflict”Nice

      1. pointsnfigures

        the block chain can stop potential future conflict though.

    2. sigmaalgebra

      > he perception of conflict by anyone of the peers already establishes the presence of conflict for everyone.Nicer than my explanation.

  5. Shoe On Head

    outstanding. that shit was fcuking tight.great title

  6. Tom Labus

    With that in mind, if things go south for the entrepreneur won’t they believe that you played them to some extent

    1. fredwilson

      Can you elaborate?

      1. Tom Labus

        If you’re slicing a market, regardless of size, and one company flies and another tanks, the people who went down will think that maybe they didn’t get full attention or it was advantageous for you to see that other company win. It is percweption

  7. Brandon Burns

    “He was shocked as he didn’t (and doesn’t) see it.”And probably never will. :-)A response, from the entrepreneur in question: http://lifeexperiencedesign

    1. fredwilson

      I did not want to out you but you should feel free to out yourself. I guess you did!Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement to make this post

      1. Brandon Burns

        You know I have little issue with being revealing on AVC!The thing that is the most disappointing of it all is that due to the “conflict,” you guys already have the best understanding of the category and what I’m trying to do. I had another disappointing encounter with a good fit investor that didn’t work out due to the same reason (different, and more direct competitor).The conflict-driven mismatches sting even more when you meet with someone who doesn’t really understand the category, or your business (but think they do), and talking to them is like nails on a chalkboard.The most unfortunate of Catch 22s.And, no, thank *you*.

        1. takingpitches

          you’re still going to kick butt Brandon!

        2. Guest

          well–pitch us here 🙂 What’s the big idea?

        3. takingpitches

          Conflict with etsy?

          1. Brandon Burns


          2. takingpitches

            When I saw your site up before, it reminded me of this store I would visit in Bombay and Delhi when I used to visit India – Central Cottage Industries Emporium.It was a grand store (weirdly enough but common for India run by the government) that aggregated much of the best of handicrafts from different local areas/cultures in India. It was a spectacular experience shopping and you would spend a ton of money there and it was a nice way to aggregate the wonders of local handicrafts from around the country in the central cities where both Indians and visitors could get a sense.Their website is crap and not illustrative of how beautiful the physical experience is but I can see wander and trade potentially being a modern and digital experience of that.:http://www.cottageemporium….

          3. Brandon Burns

            I love markets in India. And in most countries. I visit them often, and they’re’ very much an inspiration.

          4. takingpitches

            In a very broad frame, I see the conflict (“retail marketplace”).In a more narrow framework, I also see how to slice that very broad market, so that there is not a conflict (i think your vision is much more local-centric in terms of curation and the product)….

          5. awaldstein

            I see the difference clearly but to me, conflict is less about segment slicing and more about customer spend.Marketplaces are all about competition for consumers dollars. In new segments it’s all about creating a market and consumer behavior. More generalized segments, you end up both slicing off pieces of the incumbent and doing end runs.Your whiteboard is all about micro branding and go to market.

          6. takingpitches


          7. awaldstein

            Nicely written but this reads like a trade oriented point of view not a consumer one.No b2b2c model works from merchant need out, only from consumer demand in in my experience.I get what you are saying but honestly sounds like a smack on competitive play funneling a different supplier base for a segment of the same market.

          8. Brandon Burns

            Tell Fred and Joanne. 🙂

          9. jason wright

            the divide and conquer play. nice try.

          10. panterosa,

            If you’re not the only one having this problem, then what’s your take away for the next time file?

          11. Brandon Burns

            The take away is that not every match is made in heaven. C’est la via and carry on!

          12. JamesHRH

            Its not Fred & Joanne, its CEO of Etsy & founders.

          13. fredwilson

            well that was the point of my post. i am glad someone got that.

          14. JamesHRH

            benefit of criminal law training…….appearance of bias in a judge is the standard for recusal.

          15. Donna Brewington White

            I think the point was clear. But you know how we take things and run with them.

          16. Anne Libby

            Not to mention, if you don’t see eye to eye now with an entrepreneur before you invest, how will adding money to the relationship help? (That would be an interesting blog post…)

          17. Donald E. Foss

            I think @annelibby:disqus got the biggest “truth” from this Fred. A friend once told me to pass on any investor, no matter how sweet the deal or how much the investment, if the entrepreneur team and investors don’t see eye-to-eye. It’s like marrying someone for looks, yet you find their personality grating. It’s a bad idea, won’t be fun and certainly won’t last.

          18. Salt Shaker

            Have you considered tweaking your company’s positioning a bit, to better manage expectations/perceptions? Maybe you need to focus more on customer psychographics as a differentiator. If your current positioning is all about product, then you’re likely gonna get the logical marketplace comparisons.

          19. Brandon Burns

            Our metrics are great and speak for themselves. Changing the Wander&Trade positioning to work around a one-off perceived conflict of interest with an investor is not going to happen. There are more investor fish in the sea.

          20. LE

            The owner of is a customer.We can get that for you and then you can be totally in their face. “Better than etsy”. “” (PR stunt.).Edit: Yeah I know about the IP stuff this is a joke.

          21. Matt A. Myers

            You’d be fine. Clear parody – no?

        4. Donna Brewington White

          I would hate to be the VC who has to turn this down.BTW, I went to shop a week or two ago and discovered the site was down. Hurry back.

          1. Brandon Burns

            It will be back. You can bet the mortgage on that. 🙂

        5. Matt A. Myers

          It’s frustrating isn’t it? You want to partner with someone who you know can help you along the way, and who will easily understand what you’re doing without the explanation – it just comes down to whether it can or does fit into their master plan, and if something else is already fitting or planning to fit into it. As I’ve talked to different people, over the years that I’ve slowly shared my ideas, I have kept the best pieces private, as secrets. The nuanced pieces to what I am doing are where deeper value lies; Make sure you build towards those, and even though broad scope competitors could try to – IMHO they can’t compete as well – because context.I don’t think I’ll ever have time to write as much as I’d want as to my understanding of context, though it’s the most important thing you can build for; There are all the other business challenges and barriers to entry that you need to take care of too, though once those are dealt with and the playing field is even – context will win.

        6. Javier Cambon Sanjurjo

          Brandon, there are thousands of investors out there, and you are alone… with limited time and energy (your most precious asset right now). Some of these investors won’t believe in the market, others will have conflicted investments, others will give you a bs explanation about why your company is not their right fit…. and finally others will be open to invest in a company like yours. I would tell you to focus on the latter ones ;-)But also, aligned to Fred’s point, he wants to help. If you don’t see his point (and you say you will never do) you might be missing important info from a smart guy who has been investing for almost 30 years. His perception can be shared by other investors, retailers, users…

        7. Adrian Bye

          i don’t agree its about conflict. instead i think its really about value.if you can dramatically increase the value of what you’re offering, the conflict issues will work themselves out.

        8. Donald E. Foss

          Another key trait of entrepreneurs is not taking no for an answer, at least not softly. 🙂 I like your attitude Brandon.

      2. Trevor McKendrick

        @fredwilson:disqus Is it normal to invest in a company as early as Wander&Trade is at? I assume so or else you wouldn’t have taken the meeting, but it doesn’t look like that have many (any?) users yet, or even a public product.

    2. LE

      He was shocked as he didn’t (and doesn’t) see it. A few months later, he went to see the Gotham Gal about making an angel investment in his company. She pointed out the exact same conflict to him. Again he was surprised.Hey Brandon what’s scary about this is not that you see it differently but that you don’t see the point of the other side at all (at least if I believe what Fred, GG and you are relating).In order to defeat the enemy you have to be able to know and fully understand the way that they think even if you don’t agree. It doesn’t sound like that has happened here.The persistence part obviously is great (not taking no for an answer and all of that).There are many people who say things on AVC that I don’t agree with and that are different from the way I think. But I can always relate and understand why they feel that way.It’s really key to getting people to do what you want to understand them at the core. Then you can sell around any objections.

    3. jason wright

      every battle is won or lost *before* it’s even been have no excuses for not knowing Fred’s position *before*. i’m surprised that you were surprised.get a better strategy. innovate and differentiate.

  8. jason wright

    Shannon-Weaver, sender and receiver.i think there’s a (wo)man-in-the-middle goblin that they failed to identify in their model.

  9. Jorge M. Torres

    “No conflict, no interest,” goes the old adage. Whether or not John Doerr actually said it, I think it describes accurately the way lots of folks conduct their business. The behaviors surrounding this approach are not always unethical, but there’s a fine line between interest alignment and conflict of interest, so caution is warranted. Some conflicts can be waived, but everyone impacted must give informed consent. Otherwise, no dice. Good to see the issue surfaced here. It’s not discussed enough.

    1. JamesHRH

      Its totally the old school VC attitude: ‘I have the $$$, I make the rules, I am the most important person in the room (all founders can & likely will be replaced by ‘pros’ who will do a better job growing the company).’

    1. Hu Man

      “anything that’s out there can be hacked”…

  10. William Mougayar

    “We invented language in order to be vague, if you sort of see what I mean.”- Nassim Taleb (on his Facebook yesterday)

    1. Tom Labus

      try reading his books

      1. William Mougayar

        🙂 I have. (I know him; we went to the same high school)

        1. JamesHRH

          smart, smart guy – terrible writer.

          1. William Mougayar

            You could add terrible speaker too. He wanders in his writing. But I like his aphorisms.

          2. pointsnfigures

            Smart, but I think he gets too much credit. His investment strategy is not replicable by most people, nor would most funds want to pursue it.

          3. JamesHRH

            I think smart people get way too little credit for their core insights (after all, after you say it out loud, it seems obvious) and way too much credit for just about everything else they say or do.His core thesis is brilliant, brilliantly stated & extremely valuable. Everything else is a mess.

        2. Tom Labus

          Good for you. I had a hard time separating his philosophy lessons from market things

    2. sigmaalgebra

      He’s the guy who talks about rare and extremeevents as ‘black swans’ and thinks that he hasfound a new truth. Nonsense. The central limit theorem, even the Lindeberg-Feller version, doesn’t say what Taleb thinks it says. That is,even when can apply the central limit theorem,can still have rare and extreme events. Andwithout more assumptions, there is no limiton how extreme such events can be.The central limit theorem, when it applies, saysthat get convergence in distribution to aGaussian. Fine. But the rate of convergenceneeds more assumptions and usually is stilltricky to discuss. Still, a Gaussian has long tails, infinitely long.

      1. William Mougayar

        Have you read Antifragility?

        1. Dasher

          It is ‘Antifragile’.

        2. sigmaalgebra

          The time I paid attention to Taleb it seemed that hewas “shocked, shocked, that rare, extreme eventswere going on in here” since much of financialmathematics makes a Brownian motion assumption whichbrings with it, from the central limit theorem, aGaussian assumption. Then can do Black-Scholesoption pricing and pricing more generally of’exotic’ options, etc. So, from this math, can getsome warm fuzzies that everything is okay. So, LTCMdid that and went belly up with, right, a ‘blackswan’.They should have expected something else? I don’tthink so. They misread the central limit theorem –I doesn’t say what they wanted it to say.Moreover, to protect against a ‘black swan’ such askilled LTCM, would need some cute ‘rate ofconvergence’ results for the central limit theoremthat don’t have.Net, LTCM was skating on thin ice over deep waterwith no lifeline. They drew conclusions from thatmath that are not in the math.With his ‘black swans’, that is, the possibility ofrare, extreme events, Taleb thought that he wassaying something new and profound. He was not.Apparently, however, he got famous and sold a lot ofbooks. Okay, he was selling books, not the worstpossible thing to be selling; he was selling; I’msorry for him that he didn’t have something moreimportant to sell; but give him one star forselling.Apparently now he is selling another book, as atAmazon, ‘Antifragile: Things That Gain fromDisorder’.Well, there’s a Wikipedia article:…Hmm …. There we see,”Simply, antifragility is defined as a convexresponse to a stressor or source of harm (for somerange of variation), leading to a positivesensitivity to increase in volatility (orvariability, stress, dispersion of outcomes, oruncertainty, what is grouped under the designation”disorder cluster”). Likewise fragility is definedas a concave sensitivity to stressors, leading anegative sensitivity to increase in volatility. Therelation between fragility, convexity, andsensitivity to disorder is mathematical, obtained bytheorem, not derived from empirical data mining orsome historical narrative. It is a priori”He gets a grade of flat F. He’s writing nonsense.If he has a thought about mathematics, then he needsto write it in a meaningful way. He hasn’t. Inparticular he has thrown around convex and concavein nearly meaningless ways.Let R denote the set of real numbers and C, the setof complex numbers.A ‘Hilbert’ space? We live in one. A ‘Hilbertspace’ is a vector space over the real numbers R orthe complex number C that has an ‘inner product'(dot product in physics) and is ‘complete'(generalization of the completeness property of thereal numbers — “calculus is some of the elementaryconsequences of that completeness property”) for the’norm’ generated by the inner product. E.g., somecases of signals in electronics form a Hilbertspace.A ‘Banach space’ is the same except has no innerproduct and gets its norm elsewhere.In some spaces, e.g., a Hilbert space, or a Banachspace, there are convex sets. On some spaces, e.g.,a Hilbert space, some real valued functions areconvex.In a hurry here, we assume we know what a vectorspace, an inner product on a vector space, and anorm on a vector space are.For positive integer n, R^n is the set of alln-tuples of real numbers. E.g., a ‘double’ is(1,2); a triple is (4,2,7), and for n = 4 an n-tupleis (4,6,2,6). Now we know what n-tuples are.The n-tuples in R*n with R as the set of ‘scalars’form a vector space — the n-tuples are the vectors.We also have a standard ‘inner product’ (in physics,dot product) on this vector space and, thus, a’norm’, that is, a definition of distance. It turnsout that this vector space is ‘complete’ in thisnorm and, thus, is a Hilbert space. It is arelatively easy Hilbert space to work with becauseit is ‘finite dimensional’.Definition 1: Suppose K is a subset of R^n. Then Kis a ‘convex’ subset of R^n provided for any x, y inR^n and any real t in the open interval (0,1) tx +(1-t)y is also in K.Definition 2: Function f: R^n –> R is ‘convex’provided for any x, y in R^n and any a, b in R, wehavef(ax + by) <= af(x) + bf(y)Function f is ‘concave’ provided that function -f isconvex.Clearly if a function is both convex and concave,then it is linear, that is,f(ax + by) = af(x) + bf(y)So, intuitively for functions, convexity is ‘half’of linearity.Theorem 3: A convex function is continuous.As in Simmons, ‘Introduction to Topology andModern Analysis’ the two pillars of mathematicalanalysis are linearity and continuity. So,convexity is important.If we graph function f, then for x in f^n we getpoints (x, f(x)) in R^(n + 1) and the ‘epigraph’ off is the subset of R^(n + 1){ (x, y) | x in r^n and y >= f(x) }If f is a convex function, then its epigraph is aconvex set in R^(n + 1); the epigraph is also’closed’ (if a sequence of points in K converges toa point y, then point y is also in K) in R^(n + 1).Convexity is important in functional analysis,probability, optimization, economics, and more.E.g., in optimization convexity plays a huge role inlinear programming and an important role in theKuhn-Tucker conditions of nonlinear programming(once I published a paper on the KTC in JOTA). Muchof why the theory of nonlinear duality is powerfulis because, for a maximization problem, with next tonothing in assumptions the dual function is convex.What Taleb wrote omitted so many details on thespaces, sets, and functions that what he has is justmeaningless. A reader would have to guess whatTaleb meant and rewrite.It appears that, flatly, Taleb doesn’t know how towrite mathematics. A good undergraduate major inpure mathematics would likely fix that problem.In the meanwhile, just f’get about Taleb’smathematics.From Taleb’s ‘Fooled by Randomness’, we have tosuspect Taleb’s mathematics: It’s tough for anyonewith a background in measure theory (e.g., texts byHalmos, Rudin, and Royden), functional analysis(texts by Rudin), and probability (texts by Loeve,Breiman, Neveu, Chung) would be fooled byrandomness. It’s been some decades since anappropriately informed mathematician would befooled by randomness.So, a book ‘Fooled by Randomness’ seems to fill amuch needed gap in the literature and might beilluminating if ignited.To continue in essentially a book review in the NYTand at…there is> In the world today, he says in “Antifragile,”“Black Swan effects are necessarily increasing, as aresult of complexity, interdependence between parts,globalization and the beastly thing called‘efficiency’ that makes people now sail too close tothe wind.” So how to deal with the dangers posed bythis proliferation of uncertainty and volatility?My appetite for total garbage is more than sated. Ican’t continue with anything like that.Net, f’get about Taleb.You can copy this review to your Kindle for free!

  11. William Mougayar

    I think what is not clear in this post is the magnitude of the conflict. Some conflicts are small or manageable, and perhaps even healthy. Maybe not this one you are alluding to. But also, perhaps sometimes VCs give the excuse of conflict in order to get out of it.

    1. JamesHRH

      Any conflict undermines confidence.All conflicts are large.

  12. Salt Shaker

    Curious how you’ve managed an investment that subsequently evolved into a conflict w/ a pivot, if you’ve actually encountered such a scenario?

    1. Chad Kruse

      I’d be curious how Ben/Dwolla felt about the Coinbase investment. What appears as conflict to me (both essentially digital wallets at the consumer level), may not be in the entrepreneur’s eyes.

    2. fredwilson

      yes, we are dealing with that now. we got off one of the boards.

  13. Donna Brewington White

    This is powerful, Fred.It is hard for the rational mind to concede this point, yet it is one of the most important points that I continue to learn in business, especially in a role involving managing client relationships which to a huge extent means managing client expectations and navigating client perceptions. I’d like to think I can manage the latter but navigating is probably more accurate.One thing that jumps out at me in reading this is the significance of the EQ factor.The other is how once again the significance of opportunity cost appears. The amount of time spent on this concept was sorely disproportionate — at least when I first learned it — to how pervasive it is in business and even life. I sometimes wonder if it might not be one of the most important concepts to learn.

  14. JLM

    .This is a very interesting and important issue but it is well rooted in the law and there are a number of important legal issues at work here.A VC who takes a Board seat is a fiduciary and being a fiduciary is the gravest responsibility available and embraced under business law.The VC owes his duty to the shareholders — all shareholders, not just his shares or tangentially his LP’s, all shareholders — all the time, 24/7. This is a huge real conflict as there is always conflict between different tiers of funding. This is structural.This is a personal duty much like the obligation not to trade on material non-public information becomes personal. Nobody else will be in your jail cell but you if you screw this up.I fear, frankly, that most VCs do not spend enough time recognizing and acting in accordance with this duty. I know from personal contact that many VCs have a very shallow understanding of this duty and its seriousness. Not guys like Fred Wilson who are salty and seasoned and have pondered it more than a bit.The legal issue many times becomes one of “corporate opportunity” which is derived from the duty of loyalty which is one of the most well litigated and understood legal concepts pertaining to Board responsibilities. Delaware law is particularly clear on this matter.One cannot purloin opportunities that come across one’s desks when they are engaged in the governance of a competitor or a related business. The duty is again an issue of being a fiduciary.There is, in addition, an appropriate way to avail oneself of opportunities colored by the “doctrine of corporate opportunity” and they are specific and precise.A fiduciary has to acknowledge the opportunity to the existing board. That board has to formally pass on the opportunity for a reason that will stand the test of their collective fiduciary duties having been discharged to the benefit of their shareholders. Now, there are more folks in the pot being boiled. Other Board members are now engaged.The board has to document its decision and, in essence, approve the pursuit of the opportunity by its individual Board member.This must all be publicly disclosed to the shareholders and some shareholders would be expected to object. Moving forward in the face of such opposition could be a very bold move.In practice, this may entail the retention of a law firm to render a fairness opinion — a legal opinion that the actions taken by the board are fair and reasonable and lawful.Boards might form a special committee — not including the conflicted Board member and perhaps including dissident shareholders.A company which found out that its Board member was pursuing an investment that would potentially be in competition with the company would be rightfully irked and would not be wrong to eject such a Board member from its Board.This reading is a bit dramatic as such things are not parsed so finely in the real world — until you get sued.JLM.

    1. leigh

      What does the law say when the company completely changes direction? Flikr didn’t start as a photo service but it sure ended as one.

    2. sigmaalgebra

      Very new to me. A keeper. Thanks.

  15. joahspearman

    Would you say this becomes more true at a particular investment size or type? For example, if a VC participates in party round (say $200k) in a startup’s Seed round, would that prohibit the VC from leading a supposed competitor’s Series A or Series B round down the road? What if the VC does a follow-on investment in a Series A (~$500k) but isn’t the the lead?

  16. pointsnfigures

    What came first, conflicts of interest or lawyers?

    1. JamesHRH

      trust came first.

  17. pointsnfigures

    I agree with your post. Layering on something Andreessen tweeted-“Most businesses shouldn’t use VC. VC backed businesses are a small slice…” and what you wrote “markets are large and there are ways to slice them up”—As a VC, because of the duty to your LPs, and the law of investing averages-A VC cannot invest in anything that isn’t going to be a blowout business in a large market. If Andreessen is correct, then it explains the hyper competition among VCs to get in deals.

    1. LE

      Most businesses shouldn’t use VC. VC backed businesses are a small slice…I don’t even get the point of that. Is he trying to say to someone just graduating from college that there are ways to start a business without relying on VC money? That is an entirely different category of “business” than the type that VC’s can and do invest in.You simply can’t compete on a level playing field in a VC-able business without the help of a VC and other people’s money. It would be like saying not to have a coach if you are going to be in the Olympics. Like saying “you don’t need a coach to ski with your friends in Colorado” I mean duh. Of course it depends.So if you think only of skiing as “olympic skiing” then you need a coach. If you think of “skiing” as “going down a hill with skiis” then you may need a coach.As someone who has risked my own money I would have died to be able to have someone else to help me and someone else’s money not just whatever I could hack together. I laugh when I hear all these young people stressing over the control that VC’s have and how you will lose equity. If you are such hot shit you will get another chance after you end up with only what you think is a small chance of a big thing. And if the idea tanks you will have lost other people’s money not your own.

      1. JamesHRH

        typically, VC providers claim that they should only be in businesses that require large amounts of capital quickly, in order to capture a new category or defend a category that is a land grab, or something like that.

  18. Cezary Pietrzak

    “Perception is reality” is one of the fundamental tenets of marketing, so it relates to investing as much as it relates to everything else. It’s not what you believe is true, it’s what your audience perceives is true, independent of the “objective” assessment of the situation. People are not rational – they’re driven by emotion and feeling – and this applies to everyday social interactions as it does to large enterprise purchases (in fact, B2B companies are more driven by feeling/emotion/brand than B2C!).For entrepreneurs, this means placing investors’ biases front and center druing their pitch, whether or not they think these concerns are valid. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK. If Fred is stuck on something, then he won’t invest. On the flipside, it also means that investors need to step outside their comfort zone and try to understand the entrepreneur’s perspective. While it’s certainly not their responsibility to do this, it may help them not miss out on great investment opportunities. After all, VCs don’t know as much as – you guess it – they *appear* to know.I see the problem of people not equating perception with reality all the time in the startup world. Many entrepreneurs make assumptions about the product features and functionality that they think their audience will need, but they never do the proper testing and research to find out if this is truly the case. Or, they build something that has a much different impact than they originally thought. Most of these mistakes are a result of the engineering-driven culture in the startup world, as well as the general bubble mentality that suggests the real world (or “normals,” as Chris Dixon call them) cares as much about your product as you do. It’s a recipe for failure.Another way to think about the issue: “It’s not you, baby – it’s me.”

  19. panterosa,

    “Crucial Conversations” (a fave) advises on discussing Safety first, then Content. If there’s no safe space in which to raise the subject, then no content discussion of any meaning can take place. For business, for personal, for all conversations.

  20. kirklove

    Perception is 9/10ths of the law 😉

    1. fredwilson


  21. LE

    Even if he or she is dead wrong about that, it doesn’t really matter because they are now in conflict with you in their own mind and they won’t listen to you the same way again.Very very true. As the saying goes “you can’t un ring the bell or put the genie back in the bottle”.

  22. LE

    If you cannot get an entrepreneur to listen to you objectively and rationally, then you have lost your greatest hope of postively impacting that investment.There is also what I will call “pedalstalizing”.That is not being able to discern between the levels and granularity of trust and for that matter competence.So someone just blindly puts another individual on a pedestal (that they shouldn’t be on) and then the first time are wrong (because nobody is always right, right?) they lose that trust. Because they see the competence as absolute and black and white instead of a degree with a for sure chance of being wrong.You find this also in the media (and popular culture) where people are quick to go from hero to zero with no in between.

  23. sigmaalgebra

    I know that long in ‘belle lettres’ what lookslike literal nonsense can be ‘dramatic’. So,to reduce the level of drama, maybe I canmake the title more clear: Suppose a VC has an investment in company A andgets an opportunity to invest in a companyB. The VC and company B believe that there is no conflict between companiesA and B, but company A believes there is.So if the VC makes the investment in company B, then the VC has a ‘real’, personal,’conflict’ with the founders of company Aafter which time those founders will tend tolook for a ‘hidden agenda’ in any communicationsfrom the VC to company A, thus, reducing theability of the VC to ‘help’ their investment incompany A, that is lose “leverage” with the founders of company A.Yes, my explanation is longer but maybe less obscure?Solution that might work: Before investingin company B, or giving an answer to thecontact from company B, the VC mighthave a chat with the founders of companyA. Since the founders of company B havestated that they see no conflict betweencompanies A and B, the founders of companyB should not object to the VC having a chatwith the founders of company A about theproposal of company B. Then at least thefounders of company A have been kept informed and, thus, can’t accuse the VCof trying to invest in company B in conflictwith company A and ‘behind the back’ ofcompany A. Then maybe company Awill see that there is no conflict but, indeed,maybe at some point some synergy. E.g.,company A is selling high end women’s clothes, and company B is selling low endwomen’s clothes. So, maybe down the lineit would be good for both companies tomerge. Whatever.Yes, the chat with company A might increasethe complexity of the whole situation andopen new areas of ambiguity and, thus, anew can of worms threatening the trust of company A in the VC. Maybe. But,if in the end, with company A just ‘uncomfortable’ with the VC investingin company B, the VC does not investin company B, then hopefully the VCand company A will be on good termsagain.Net, if there is no real conflict, then theremight be a way around rubbing the fur ofcompany A the wrong way.

  24. Pete Griffiths

    Fred – I notice you have repeatedly talked about wanting to make more bitcoin investments. Good for you. May I respectfully suggest that you think about repositioning this as wanting make make more ‘altcoin’ or more ‘cryptocurrency’ investments. This sector isn’t just bitcoin and in the eyes of some bitcoin is simply the first wave. Second generation coins are emerging now, that have novel and valuable properties rather than being simple bitcoin forks. There are going to be other very interesting opportunities. 🙂

  25. LE

    but the opportunity cost of saying yes to an investment is that they take themselves out of the running for everything else in that category going forwardReally the classic problem in both business and relationships.That is “the bigger better deal”.I was talking to my sister about my niece who has a boyfriend. I said “is the relationship going anywhere” (they’ve been together for 2 years) and she acted as if it didn’t matter “she is young”. To which I said “yeah but she’s out of circulation and you don’t know she may be passing up something that would last”. (in so many words). Point being if you don’t see a future then get out and move on. Look at the downside.Anyway back to business.Anytime you have an asset you are really doing the reverse. You are deciding to sell and hoping that you aren’t going to regret it because you could have gotten more money in the future. But if you don’t sell you might also never get the “bigger better deal”, right?You know all those single women in NYC that aren’t married? Many of them are waiting for the bigger better deal. [1][1] God knows this happens with domains each and every day. Sellers pass up reasonable realistic offers waiting for a million dollars with a .01 chance of every happening.

  26. LE

    A way to game and get around the situation you are referring to (not wanting to make an investment in a category you are already in) from the entrepreneurs perspective is to do as follows.Approach under one premise which isn’t a conflict and then fork to something which is.I remember I had a customer in the 80’s a real estate developer that wanted to build a casino in NJ. He came up with a concept called “Carnival Club” that was more or less a kid’s themed casino that was unique.We were printing the proposal. I remember looking at it and saying to him something like “you aren’t really going to do this right, this is just a way to get the money and then you will actually do what you really want?”To which he replied (something like) “exactly but the bankers won’t give me the money to do a concept that is already being done”.(God knows I remember this shit but not the stuff I watched on Netflix last week.)He later tried to stiff us for some of the bill (we did get paid) [1] but hey that’s part of the risk of doing business with certain real estate developers.[1] The technique in particular he used was to make us feel that extra costs were no problem so we did all the work and then when the bill came due he then said “I didn’t know if would be so much money!”.

  27. leigh

    In the Agency/Consulting world, one competitor is a conflict, three is a practice 🙂

    1. fredwilson


    2. karen_e

      I was wondering how to phrase that … you nailed it!

  28. Drew Meyers

    This topic came up in our email thread last year about what we were working on. Like the entrepreneur you reference in this post, I didn’t see the conflict the same way you did, but that doesn’t really matter. We’ve moved on to a totally different product/strategy since then – which I’m sure doesn’t conflict with the portfolio company that came up in our last thread. Plugging away to get it designed & built 😉

  29. JamesHRH

    Nice to see this.This is not a worry for many VCs.I think I could name at least one who has publicly stated that his job is to be there in the winner’s circle and if he has 3 or 4 horses in the race, so what?This is old school Sequoia style ‘perform or be replaced’ mentality……person I am thinking of is not a Sequoia VC BTW.

  30. Matt A. Myers

    If conflict exists it really starts off by the defined scope; Platforms encompass many features and possible use cases vs. specific services or feature-specific offerings that have a specific use case.I think to some degree it might be naive to not invest in some overlap for certain areas. I think this lesson will be hard to learn because of, in general, investors (or even most people from my experience talking with people and reading what’s out there) don’t properly understand the ecosystem of the internet, and so what they think is possible within the broad scope they defined, in reality isn’t going to have the grit when something slightly similar can take part of the market share.It’d be best to have ownership in both IMHO, though then there’s still the concern of what happens if portfolio companies start directly competing on certain features – in essence these competing portfolio companies are both diluting your returns. A similar ecosystem scenario resonates in my blog post from years ago on “The Independent Web, How Can It Work?” –…Also, potentially a good way to get a signal if you fit a VC’s portfolio and investment thesis but they don’t make an offer – something in their pipe might be wanting to go in similar direction, or you’re not yet ready for their investment.I don’t think 99.9999999% of people understand how passively cut-throat the innovative business arena is.

  31. Gavin Baker

    For me, this was the best quote – “If anyone in a relationship with you percieves that you are in a conflicted situation, you are in a conflicted situation whether you agree with them or not. Your only choice is to try to convince them otherwise before you obligate yourself to the conflict situation. “Conflict is sticky and it’s very personal. I worked for a PR firm and we didn’t take competitors, we had a one client/industry rule. I asked the owner and founder of the firm about that, and they said something to the effect of “if a reporter calls me and asks me for the best bank in town and we have two banking clients, what do I tell them?” For them, only having one client/industry allowed them to pitch from the heart, knowing they didn’t have an internal conflict. Now in PR, the downside is that this can lead to a utopian view that your clients always do everything best (even when in some segments they aren’t the leader).Being in marketing, at my business Greenlight ( we provide managed email marketing for businesses who don’t have the time or the ability to do the design, content, and formatting themselves. We do not have a rule about industries, and we support a number of construction industry (and related) companies. But there is a struggle of wanting to be upfront about who we work with, but managing that conflict between supporting potential competitors and my own need to grow our business. I wish I had a better heuristic of how to handle it.

    1. fredwilson

      “what do i tell them?”so right

  32. hypermark

    A key takeaway from this is that a good chunk of the perception (and reality) comes down to market segmentation, and your corresponding narrative around the distinctiveness of the segment, versus overlap for the engagement, attention and dollars of users.

  33. jason wright

    interesting post. it read risky. we got what we would inevitably want. i assume you expected that.a cosy market duopoly ain’t such a bad thing. i see it everywhere.

  34. kenberger

    Re he pitched Gotham Gal and she saw the same conflict:I assume you meant USV’s, when you said sounds like 1 of your portcos.afaik, GG isn’t officially part of USV. Is she beholden to your conflicts, simply through marriage?

  35. pointsnfigures

    I had to add this because you used the word perception. I am 6’5″ and people think I am tall. I don’t have a photo of me and @andyswan but if I did you would get the same perception.

    1. Tom Labus

      Hey Tiny

  36. Guest

    I think this is great. Perception is everything. However, Fred, how do you propose an entrepreneur go about his/her rounds when they are in a space like Social? It seems that even with a separation of paths between similar companies futures, there is inevitably overlap. I propose you should more be choosing based on the entrepreneur himself (among other factors). That being said, I can’t imagine approaching VC firms who don’t have a horse in almost every race. We are in a huge category, that is being done all wrong (as I see it). I had thought about approaching USV but you have a direct competitor in your portfolio as do many other top firms. The strategy is instead to let our metrics settle conflicts, by creating a can’t miss out situation for VC firms. We want to be in the driver seat, but it’s a shame when you see VC firms back the wrong horse. Long term, most of the current players in a space will adapt the working model of the leader. Thus, conflict shall always be.

  37. Niv Dror

    Great post Fred. This is exactly the point Marc Andreesseen made in his PandoMonthly about why a16z hasn’t invested in a Bitcoin company. A month or so later: Coinbase… Treating the perception of conflict as conflict is a very ethical way to look at it; thanks for explicitly pointing it out.

  38. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Substitute the word “Conflict” with “Competition” and things change subtlyWere I to say we have no competition it would be thought naive (and rightly so).However, I have yet to see a company who offers what we do, to whom we offer it and delivers it in the way we do. (There is no clone of us)Naturally my awareness of our abilities is more acute than those of an investor. An investor may see us as doing “energy efficiency” (we do), doing “virtual energy audits” (we do) or even doing “smart-metering” (which we don’t !!! )Once bracketed, classified and pigeon-holed, even if inaccurately, the competition exists in the mind of an investor, and we will not dislodge that perception.However, since no player in our industry is a 1:1 substitute for our capabilities, market, network, and specialities, I have yet to meet another player in our industry where complementary work could not provide a net sum game.So to the VC who sees conflict of interest and competition, my advice would be look for the union, look for the intersect and consider the universe. (I am talking Venn diagrams not star-gazing here:)Collaboration (or M&A) make sense where the union is bigger than either part and the intersect well defined – and in such situations an offer to set the new contact up with a meeting (despite your perception of conflict of interest) – and magic can happen !One of our biggest clients introduced themselves as having an identical in-house product (we had “nothing to add”! ) – now they use us to hunt new clients (the ones without access to their in-house tool) which though pretty good is expensive to configure and not as good at early “helicopter vision” – our core strengthUnion = biggerIntersect (closely related product) = No conflict || competitionWhy? Differentiation – Different stage (of onboarding) same marketSo @fredwilson:disqus – Perhaps @gothamgal and you could add masters of serendipity, to your interplay with future “conflicts of interest”

  39. howardlindzon

    I remember 2008 I had invested in Tweetdeck and really liked Ryan at Hootsuite as well. He had a way harder time getting investors and I did not invest early because I felt eventually neither would trust me or include me in on updates and in the and both were homeruns….Avoiding conflict in my head caused me beaucoup bitcoins!

  40. Matt Zagaja

    Managing conflicts of interest in a small community is especially hard. I am managing many in the political work I do and the most important thing is keeping people’s trust. Passing on interesting things is hard. Having to sit out supporting friends in their endeavors is even more painful. However, I also am seeing how others fail to manage their conflicts and while it may be making them some short term profit I am rather certain it is hurting their business in the long term.Ultimately I like your approach Fred and it’s one I use. I ask others how they feel and lay it on the table. If they veto then I withdraw whether I’d be comfortable or not and prey I’m not being give enough rope to hang myself with. Not much is worth the trouble of trying to convince others that something isn’t a problem.

  41. David Haber

    Ain’t this the truth.

  42. riemannzeta

    I can’t and won’t argue with any of the facts that Fred lays out in support of his argument that the perception of conflict is conflict. That argument seems valid both in view of the facts and in terms of its logic.But I’m concerned at how far and how quickly commenters have been willing to stretch this argument beyond these facts and into a broader argument along the lines of “the perception of reality is reality.”There are some aspects of reality that are almost entirely socially constructed. Conflicts of interest seem pretty close to that pole. But there are others that are (almost?) entirely independent of social construction. Let’s put experimentally verified scientific theory at that pole.Now here’s the thing. Social reality can be warped through the manipulation of perceptions for evil purposes as well as good. What do we have to aid us in deciding whether to go along with the crowd or to take a stand for another perception/reality?I’d say it’s the facts that are close to the opposite pole, and whatever sound mathematical reasoning can take us from those facts to inferences about what might lay beyond their reach. For me it’s a habit to ask myself always whether what I’m hearing and seeing makes sense in view of what I’ve known before, or if not whether I can reason from that to there.There is sometimes a fine line between being considerate and respectful of others experiences and opinions and permitting oneself to become a replica of their minds. Probably nobody can afford always to think and act freely in every domain. But it would make me sad if it were true that somebody in a position like Fred’s couldn’t act independent of others’ analysis if/when she perceived their analysis to be incorrect, even about something as sensitive as conflicts.

  43. Ryan

    Hello everyone. Long time listener, first time caller.Silly question: Is the primary “conflict of interest” concern that the VC will encourage one portfolio company to do something that isn’t in their best interest in order to further the interests of another portfolio company? Wouldn’t a VC want a collection of similar companies in their portfolio when they perceive that an industry is about to pop?For example, I have no problem owning both Apple and Google stock. Sure they compete in many areas, but their competition fuels innovation and in the end they’ll both end up growing. Maybe the difference is in whether the investor has a board seat at one or both companies?

  44. Emily Merkle

    Perception is reality.

  45. James Alexander

    For me, the most interesting ‘conflict’ was Fred’s opening observation that “Our customers are the entrepreneurs we back.” Perhaps I’m thinking about it in the wrong way. My take is that it’s a sweet sentiment from a great VC but it’s wrong and a dangerous way for anyone in the capital supply chain to think. A customer is an entity which purchases goods or services from another. The service a VC sells is called ‘a return’. They sell this service to investors (the shareholders, as Fred calls them). These are the VCs’ true customers. To help deliver the return, oftentimes a VC will provide a variety of value-creating services to the companies they invest in. The provision of these services in no way makes a portfolio company a customer of the VC anymore than offering air freight makes a box of bananas a customer of Chiquita. Entrepreneurs do not give investors money…it’s the other way around. And if you’re not paying for the product then you are the product. Entrepreneurs are the means by which VCs are able to deliver the return to their customers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this model except calling it something it’s not. For investors and their portfolio companies to be successful, it is critical that entrepreneurs are realistic about what motivates their sources of capital and the expectations that come with it. That doesn’t mean everyone can’t be friendly. Nowhere is there a more supportive and nurturing environment in the face of expected failure. But it does mean that we entrepreneurs have to recognize that we really have two customers…those who buy the products or services of our businesses as well as the investors which provide the early capital to make our businesses possible. Might be worth a deeper AVC discussion.

    1. fredwilson

      the people you provide a return to are your shareholders, not your customers

      1. James Alexander

        True, unless your shareholders are your customers, which is the thought exercise here. The supposition in the post’s lead was that a VC is a service business like a law firm and that the VCs’ customers are the entrepreneurs it invests in. Respectfully I challenge that point of view. When I hire a law firm I sign an engagement letter that clearly says I’m a client of the firm and, at that point I may start paying a retainer fee to the firm (I will certainly start getting billed). Is it your experience that portfolio companies pay their VCs advisory fees after they invest in them? We’ve all got bills to pay and VCs can’t afford to work for free either. You may have a different model but most VCs pay the bills by taking a small percentage of the fund they’re managing. As the money for the fund came from shareholders, and those shareholders are explicitly paying a management fee to the VC for their services in finding, nurturing and harvesting (or killing) investments for the ultimate purpose of generating a return, then how are the VCs’ shareholders not also their customers?

        1. fredwilson

          we don’t work for freethe discount we get on the equity we buy is our fee

  46. fredwilson

    The company and the new mgmt team

  47. fredwilson

    But also the founder who is likely a significant shareholder

  48. JLM

    .The notion of “customers” is a fine concept but it is not a legal concept. The Board has a fiduciary duty to all shareholders under the law. The rest of it is new age window dressing.The fiduciary duty both trumps all other relationships but also empowers — compels actually — a Board member to act.A Board member who fails to act is arguably guilty of having turned a “blind eye” toward wrong doing which has landed many a person in jail (e.g. attorneys and accountants who were responsible for overlooking wrongdoing by their clients).Under SOx, the attorney-client privilege is not only pierced but attorneys are compelled to report wrong doing to the SEC. This is noted as a sense of where the law is headed.In a conflict between a “customer” — regardless of how defined — and a shareholder, the Board member has only one real duty. To represent the interests of all shareholders.If unable to do so, a Board member must arguably recuse himself from any involvement.JLM.

  49. fredwilson

    That’s a mindset and its important to determine what kind of VC you are getting in bed withThat said, I have removed founders. I have always thought it was in the best interests of the company and in hindsight I still feel that way

  50. takingpitches

    Bilton’s book dramatically illustrates that 2X (Jack and Ev) and their wallets/legacy might have to admit it was in the best interests as well!

  51. pointsnfigures

    posts on how to initiate and navigate that might be good posts

  52. Brandon Burns

    Ha! We’ll see. ;-)Anyone interested in a marketplace serving local small businesses, that sorta kinda resembles Etsy if you turn your head and squint a little bit, reach out for a link to the private URL and deck by emailing:…

  53. awaldstein

    This is my craft that I work at daily still of course.But I was in (I think) Radio City, listening to Bill Clinton talk to a few thousand tech execs back when.It became clear that he was taking to me directly and I wasn’t listening i was simply hearing his thoughts. The master.

  54. Tom Labus

    But people aren’t always rational under pressure (or otherwise)

  55. panterosa,

    I love that image…

  56. awaldstein

    The most amazing speaker, and one of the greatest leaders, I’ve had the pleasure of listening to, and believing in.BTW–at this talk he was asked to sum up his views on managing the middle east conflict. His response was that ‘his grandmother had told him that to have friends, you need to be a friend.’ Brilliant guy.

  57. LIAD

    I know how you feel bruva.

  58. JamesHRH

    I don’t think you conflict with Etsy either.Perhaps focusing on a different facet of your positioning will help.

  59. JamesHRH

    representing the interests of all shareholders can get tough….especially if a founder defines ‘me being in charge’ as more valuable for the company than ‘someone else trying a new strategic direction’.

  60. Matt A. Myers

    Maybe doesn’t currently compete with Etsy. I can imagine they all want to try to tap into the offline market, much like AFAIK that Shopify is about to try; From what I remember, they currently process $3.5 billion of online sales annually.

  61. JLM

    .These folks are typically called “former” CEOs.JLM.

  62. JamesHRH

    yes, that’s the term in the Realm of JLM

  63. Donna Brewington White

    It was a great idea, Kelly and I liked your nuanced positioning, but I suppose nuance is not a distinct enough differentiator….We must get together and chat sometime.