Traces - A Group Show For Young Artists

It always makes me happy to see my daughter Emily send a tweet, my son Josh repost a song on SoundCloud, and my daughter Jessica post something to her Tumblr. They aren’t always so keen to use the services we back at USV, but they do come around to them from time to time.

But I think the biggest kick I got in this area was a few weeks ago when Jessica and three friends launched this Kickstarter.

It was funded quickly, over the course of a weekend, and they don’t need more money so if you are in the giving mood today, you might want to find another project to back.

If you live in NYC, you might want to attend the show. It will be at the Gowanus Loft in Brooklyn on June 6th, 7th, and 8th. The opening will be the evening of the 6th.

Although I have funded many projects on Kickstarter over the years, I have never made one. It was enlightening to watch Jessica and her friends Lenora, Zoe, and Lolita go through the process of defining and explaining their project, making a video, and scoping out the rewards. I gave them some advice here and there, mostly on the rewards which are great btw, and also on setting up Amazon payments. I came away with an appreciation for what a project creator goes through in making a Kickstarter. And of course, I experienced the thrill of pushing it out and the joy of seeing it funded.

I’ve said this many times on this blog, but I will say it again. Kickstarter is an iconic example of what makes the Internet so awesome. I am proud to be an investor and I am equally proud to be the father of a Kickstarter project creator.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Gary Chou

    It’s always so great to see people (especially loved ones) realize their ideas!

  2. JimHirshfield

    Lotsa nachas

  3. awaldstein

    And I’m just thrilled to live in a world where pure expression and community can find support without business as the only end goal.

  4. Russell

    Well done – scoping out a project, being able to knock out a video, having the ambition to dream, how to incentive people to join you for the journey – key life skills!

  5. Brandon Burns

    “[My kids] aren’t always so keen to use the services we back at USV, but they do come around to them from time to time.”Um… red flag?

    1. LE

      Maybe maybe not.Fred’s kids are privileged and aren’t necessarily representative statistically of kids all over the country. Forgetting even money for a second kids in NYC particularly Manhattan are generally more worldly then suburban kids and different in many ways.Part of this I believe has to do with the various visual stimulus that swirls around in NY vs. a typical suburb and what you are exposed to there. Definitely does something positive for the brain no question about that.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Not necessarily. My guess is that Fred’s kids spend a lot of time with groups of friends real life, and that time spent on most social media is inversely proportional to that.

  6. Victor F. Bodin

    Nice! I think it’s cool to see how Kickstarter enables all sorts of projects to build communities from day one

  7. Twain Twain

    There are some great Art meets Tech project out there to help young artists and if I was in NY 6-8 June I’d definitely pop in and support this show.Remember back to when there was no Kickstarter? Youngsters with initiative and dreams would have to save their pocket money for years to get their projects up and running.Now, they can do it over a weekend — great stuff!

  8. pointsnfigures

    Cool they are letting the artists earn 100%. I learn a lot through my kids. I don’t know the art business. I wonder what the gallery takes.

    1. fredwilson


      1. Andrew Kennedy

        that’s a big number

        1. awaldstein

          Never been a distributor that took less than 30% that I know of.Nothing is more valuable than customer contact.Apple stores are I believe even higher.

          1. LE

            Inherent problem with taking a large percentage is that it attracts competition that says “I can do that for less”. Because by napkin you can tell there is money to be had.I remember a pediatrician that decided one day to do circumcisions.The local “go to” schnit guy charged, back in the day, $400 to come in and do the ritual ceremony.He would drive up in a fancy car to boot. Might have been even a Porsche. Seeing this it simply encouraged others to go into competition with him and they got their business simply by advertising in the local jewish paper and networking. All the sudden everybody and their uncle wanted to do circumcisions.The legacy guy (in this particular community) learned and inherited the business from his father who I believe charged much less and didn’t drive a fancy car.

          2. awaldstein

            Selling circumcisions is a service that is provided one on one. (I hope!)Selling art is a service that is successful if it provides customers. Selling speakers at the Apple Store the same.Gathering customers is the key of business. Sure you pay for it. If you don’t and can’t find them yourself, you simply don’t have a business.Every model has its price.

          3. LE

            Gathering customers is the key of business. Sure you pay for it.My point being then that if you charge a high amount for gathering customers it will encourage others, some of which as a result of being the lucky sperm, will survive to compete with you.If I tell you that I will sell your product and want to take 50% then I very well might need that 50% because I am spending tons of money on getting people to buy your product.But it also means that you (the customer) and others (everyone’s uncle) will sense opportunity and perhaps go into competition with me. And they might not even know about what the costs are (ignorance works to your advantage some times, right?) but still figure it out in the end.

          4. awaldstein

            Understand but don’t see it.Bringing in customers is the hardest thing there is.If everyone could do it, everyone would.It’s 100% performance and margin based. If they don’t deliver the customers you stop using them. If you can’t build a product to afford the margin, game over.

          5. sigmaalgebra

            Sounds like my parents, not Jewish, got one of the cheap guys: As I was resting at home, my parents happened to look in on me and found my bed soaked with blood. I’d nearly bled to death.Maybe that experience is why for the next 12 years or so in the about three cases when I needed some good medical care my parents got me some darned good care.E.g., in a camping accident, on the top of my left hand I’d cut one tendon and nicked two more. Some darned good parents supervising the camping effort rushed me 100 miles home and, do not pass GO, do not collect $100, directly to the hospital where my parents and general surgeon were waiting. The surgeon put my tendons back together with silver wire threaded inside the tendons with the ends left outside supported by buttons! About three weeks later the surgeon pulled the wires out, and my hand was fine! Later I started violin (too late, too little talent, too little practice, but a LOT of fun), and my left hand was fine and still is!

          6. LE

            May jews, at least the ones that I have been raised around and are familiar with, are fussy pains in the asses who don’t let anything slip by. Or take any shit. Hence the people or businesses that end up meeting with their approval and are passed around as “the guy to go to” tend to be worth betting on if lacking other information. When my dad was in the hospital and told me his nurse was really good and knew her shit he almost certainly was right. He could tell by “how she moved her hands” and “the way she said what she said” instincts that had served him well (and were constantly refined) over years of interaction. A pattern match.This could be true in other communities as well but my personal experience indicates it is a correct stereotype in the jewish community. Or at least the one that I grew up in.

          7. sigmaalgebra

            Dad was really good on quality in some things, but for anything like finding a good physician Mom was terrific: She was: (1) Terrified, of lots of things, especially lack of money. (2) Partly from (1), she was highly determined. (3) She was beautiful; although she grew up short on money, she had an uncle who paid for an oil portrait of her when she was 15, and the portrait hung in our family dining room as I grew up. She was similar to Elizabeth Taylor, and it’s not clear just who was prettier. When Mom was about 40, she did a few afternoons modeling clothes in the high end lunch room of a local high end department store. (4) She was quite bright in her own way. (5) With (1)-(4), for about the first 40 years of her life she worked as hard as she could at developing social skills and building her social ‘network’ (Facebook was not nearly the start of ‘social networks’), especially for ‘social climbing’. She was darned good at it. Dad didn’t make money enough to fund the country club memberships Mom wanted, but still she did well. I never understood what she was doing or its importance until much later (Dad was really good at teaching me much, but not all, of what he knew, but Mom was not a good teacher, really just kept her secrets), and in my teens was a pain to be with outside the house, especially at a grocery store, because she would make a five minute store trip into a 45 minute serial gossip excursion with 3-5 other women. (6) So, with (1)-(5), when I needed some medical care, the three major times I did, Mom was just terrific. I believe that she got her ‘entering wedge’ by a good selection of a pediatrician, and then pumped him for all he was worth. And, we can guess that a pediatrician could be a good ‘broker’ for directions into the rest of medical care. What else she did, maybe from just one on one with candidate physicians, I don’t know, but with (1)-(5) she had a lot going for her.Dad should have gotten interested in business; Mom would have been a terrific aid!When I wanted to give my girl an engagement ring, Mom went to her good friend Mrs. Gamble, right, of the family of Procter and Gamble, and asked for a reference. So, my girl and I ended up at a nice Jewish jeweler in downtown DC, nice guy, messy shop, and we got a good deal on a very clear diamond in a Tiffany setting of platinum.Although Mom grew up short of money, she did have a valuable start: She, her three sisters, and a brother were raised by Mom’s maternal grandmother, and she had had a good, affluent, and privileged social background so passed on some values and lessons to Mom. The rest Mom did.Sadly Mom paid essentially no attention at all to the social development of my brother and I. And although Dad had a moderately affluent social background, actually with both his father and step father successful entrepreneurs, he was not good either socially or as an entrepreneur. Bummer.Net, Mom, on her own, was one heck of ‘social networker’ and ‘social climber’.Her techniques for finding, say, a physician, seem more definitely structured than the techniques you described!Of course, if I had those early years with Mom and Dad all to do over again, then I could have gotten much more from them. That is all just a special case of the general situation that it would be just terrific to be 10, 8, or even 6 again if I knew then what I know now! Actually I suspect that a book, ‘Life 101 for Dummies — Children’, and not long, would have been nearly enough. Some of the time I wasted in my first 20 years is just grim to consider now. With any kind of reasonable guidance, starting when I was 8-9, I could have gotten going, gotten my Ph.D. well before 20 and then moved into business.

          8. LE

            Your mother was, in short, a connector.Country club? Yes. You are right.My dad was sort of like that. Biggest mistake he probably made was not joining the country club. Of course as an immigrant that might have been difficult (tended to be american born jews iirc). He was a member of a local health club for the longest time and I know he related stories of how that benefited him. He would just strike up a conversation and things would happen. (Not super big things but things.)Dad should have gotten interested in business; Mom would have been a terrific aid!100% in theory correct. Had he done that he would have done pretty well despite the fact that he wasn’t apparently (from what you are saying) inherently interested in business. That’s kind of important but not always. Plenty of people do well in spite of actually liking the business part of it.Reminds me a bit of some family businesses where the son is just collecting a salary and phoning it in. (Could be Dad’s fault of course for not providing the proper guidance, encouragement or just having unreasonable expectations. Or maybe being to big of a pain in the ass about things or hyper critical (I could go on and on about this actually).Sadly Mom paid essentially no attention at all to the social development of my brother and I.Hah. Try being raised by a holocaust camp survivor (who had no parents past a certain age) and a mother who’s father died at age 16 back when there was no social safety net.

          9. sigmaalgebra

            Dad did sometimes think of being an entrepreneur. His first guess was to run a hardware store. He was so good at both teaching and essentially everything that can be done with everything in a hardware store that he could have given lessons on Saturday mornings to DIYers and, maybe, gotten some really good attendance and trusting customers and then sold a lot of paint, brushes, brush cleaners, paint rollers, wood stains, varnishes, wood carving tools, drills, all the usual wood shop and metal shop tools and techniques, yes, including tricky welding (held a high pressure steam boiler welder’s certificate; taught welding), etc. Yes, he could cover masonry, framing carpentry, finish carpentry, furniture making, plumbing, electrical, exterior painting, interior painting, etc.Furniture making? Sure: His college senior project was to make a Honduras mahogany double pedestal desk. It was nice. Playing poker at the dining room table, some guy leaned forward too far on one of the pretty chairs and broke the front leg, S-shaped. Dad made a new leg, attached it, applied stain and varnish, and got everything to match. In an antique shop, Mom found a dining room table she liked, but the finish was a disaster and all wrong and the joints were weak. Mom also had some fancy dining room chairs from Henkel Harris or some such and wanted the finish on the table to match the chairs. Dad made the table strong again and then wrote the chair maker asking for a bottle of stain, and they laughed at him. So, Dad took tubes of ground color and mixed his own stain. He got essentially a perfect match and a perfect finish. He could have run a high end boutique furniture making shop with a lot of apprentices. Mom could have done much of the front of house work!He could also do hunting and fishing equipment.But he concluded that there was no way be could compete with Sears. He underestimated himself.Well, apparently long there was another way: Move up to the pros and serve them. E.g., long there was a guy around DC who dominated wholesale plumbing supplies, for plumbers, and did well. Likely could do much the same for wholesale electrical supplies.And there were other ways: Dad had the technical knowledge to run a terrific building supply business off the back of his hand. And he could have run another Brookstone, that is, mail order for high end ‘hardware’.In all those cases, Mom could have been a good aid in bookkeeping, customer service, HR, publicity, ‘networking’, etc.> Reminds me a bit of some family businesses where the son is just collecting a salary and phoning it in. (Could be Dad’s fault of course for not providing the proper guidance, encouragement or just having unreasonable expectations. Or maybe being to big of a pain in the ass about things or hyper critical (I could go on and on about this actually).Standard problem. Worthy as the theme of ‘the great American novel’.One description is, “The story of wealth in America is rags to rags in three generations.”.Another description is, ‘regression to the mean’ — or take the children of the gold medal winners at the Olympics and notice that what they do in athletics is less good than what their parents did and, thus, closer to the ‘mean’ of everyone else.In part I got a Ph.D. due to Mom’s intensity about money and her belief, not well founded in reality, that a Ph.D. would be a big advantage in making money. Well, it’s not always, but it can be, but mostly others don’t believe so.I did notice that one of my Ph.D. dissertation advisors, Jared Cohon, just retired as President at CMU. Ray Lane, right, from Oracle and KPCB, is the Chair of the Board. Apparently the first thing the new guy did was to bring back as Chair of the Computer Science (CS) department a guy, Andrew Moore, previously a prof at the CMU CS department but who, since then, from just off campus ran a shop for Google. Then, in all the talking about the CMU CS department, it was claimed that only 15% of the Ph.D. grads go into academics! So, some people believe that a Ph.D. could be good for business!A Ph.D. in applied math is much more powerful, but apparently so far about the only people who realize this are the CS profs who keep taking old work in statistics, optimization, and more in applied math, adding some trivial new terminology, diluting the content, e.g., neglecting the clear definitions, assumptions, clear statements of theorems, and proofs, putting the results into new bottles with new labels with some really low grade mathematical writing, and calling it, say, ‘machine learning’!So, the CS ‘paradigm’ is to take some old applied math results, throw away nearly everything important, especially about appropriate applications and quality guarantees, call the result an ‘algorithm’, and treat it as a black box with no particular properties. Like picking bottles off the shelf of a pharmacy and dispensing the contents without regard for anything in the Physician’s Desk Reference.Wait until the ‘big data’ people hear about sufficient statistics! Or the A/B testing people hear about experimental design. Or the machine learning people hear about stochastic optimal control. Or the guys struggling with combinatorial optimization problems that they suspect are NP-complete discover that a large fraction of those problems really are least cost network flow problems with integer capacities and, thus, astoundingly fast, integer solutions via the network simplex algorithm! And the artificial intelligence (AI) guys, as they crawl forward, are bound to rediscover multi-objective optimization! Then they will dig into the Kuhn-Tucker conditions and their constraint qualifications and get really confused! [There is a good book by Zangwill, and I have a paper that can help.] Next they will discover nonlinear programming.Look, CS guys, you are quite short on good, new ideas and, instead, are walking around, some decades late, in old fields long since well plowed!

      2. jason wright

        that’s a lot. it’s too much.

      3. Vineeth Kariappa

        A bit more clarity. Organizers get to keep 50% of the sale?

    2. LE

      I bought a building many years ago and rented it out to a woman who was an artist and always wanted to own an art gallery.What she did was make a space in the front for display and then sub divide the space into work areas for artists, keeping the rear portion (which was really cool since it was an historic building) for her own work space. The rent from the artists who sublet from her covered the operating expenses and they would all get to display their work at the front in the gallery. It was located on 2nd Street in Philly where there were, at the time, other galleries opening and what is now known as “first friday”.Anyway she would always complain about any rent increases and I didn’t think she was making any money. One day I walked in and spoke to some of the artists and was surprised to find that there was a waiting list to rent the private work space (there might have been 6 at the time iirc.. They actually felt lucky to have landed the space.After a few years it turned into a legitimate gallery and then displayed art from more established artists.When she started, the idea appeared dicey to me. But it is still working and apparently (I sold the building many years ago) successful about 24 years later.No question there is an opportunity to make some money working with artists since they are typically not business people with rare exceptions.

      1. JLM

        .Damn good story.Well played.JLM.

        1. LE

          For that you get a bonus story.That building in question was owned by a family business prior to my purchase.The son of the owner (owner was a widow iirc) did a shake down on me.Son said he would only encourage his mom to sell the building at that price if I bought some “personal property” from him (that I didn’t need).In cash of course.This is after the deal had been struck already. Kind of (iirc) a last minute thing he slipped in. Like my ex wife did when we met to sign the final documents “one more thing I want a trip to Disney with the kids or I’m not signing”.I said no problem to both. Really impressed that my ex wife listened to me and my stories all those years and was thinking. (Good rationalization, huh?)

  9. takingpitches

    The intersection of a dad’s and daughter work is an awesome thing. Congrats to you and Jessica!

  10. Suzan B

    What a wonderful idea Jessica and her collaborators came up with. You must be a proud dad–on both accounts! I backed the project because I just moved to New York, love art + supporting artists and would love to meet cool people with similar interests. Looking forward to the opening!

  11. jason wright

    kickstarter is good, but it can make for unhappy funders if the founders later sell. kickstarter itself has said it will not sell. Oculus was a shit storm.K 2.0 with funders as stake holders, or founders making legal declarations of any intentions for the company’s future from the off. both might be for the best.

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t see it that way. the oculus backers will get the rewards they were promised. they were not promised equity or any control over what the company was going to do in the future. maybe in the future project creators who are doing things that could turn into a company will have to address those concerns in the comments if they want to have a successful project. but i am not really seeing evidence of that happening yet.

      1. LE

        i don’t see it that way. the oculus backers will get the rewards they were promised.I agree 100%.You know right now somewhere in America there is a teacher, coach mentor whatever that has decided to do something for someone (where that someone might be the next star or wealthy person) and in no way should there be an expectation that the person who becomes a success is in any way obligated to share the riches or fame as a result of that help.Of course if they want to that’s great (some of it I mean).I do remember a time though when I saw someone accepting an academy award who thanked the teacher that initially got them into the arts. And I did think that they owed them a bit more than just a thank you (and maybe they did do something since how would we know).Which raises an interesting question. If teachers were thanked later on in a monetary way for their students success would that be good or bad? I could argue either side of that one. (Most thoughts fall on moral hazard bad for sure.)

        1. jason wright

          Kevin Spacey if my memory is correct.

      2. jason wright

        perhaps K will fork. perhaps another startup will obviate its need to. perhaps there isn’t the demand, only noise.sentiment and good will are hard in the getting, but then worth the the product, love the brand. project ara and phonebloks are getting both. i wonder which has the better chance of the keeping?

      3. leigh

        Yes they were given what they were promised, but I think it does raise a question — not a legal or business one but more of a morale one. If i were the founders and made THAT much money, I would most certainly have done something significant for those initial backers (but hey that is just me and no one has ever given me billions for a business so maybe i would go all 1% and not care #notachance)

  12. sigmaalgebra

    Sounds like some darned good parenting! Fred, since clearly you were busy making money, we have to guess that nearly all the credit goes to GG! Sorry ’bout that!

    1. LE

      Of course she deserves the credit.Otoh it is undeniable that making a good living helps in terms of parenting and is a really key part of the story as well.Also iirc GG did actually work in the earlier part of last decade. So that was raising 3 kids and also working at the same time.

    2. leigh

      I’m pretty sure one can work and get credit for raising great kids (says the working mom — and of course see below to LE’s comment as well πŸ˜‰

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Now, now, Leigh! :-)! Last time I checked, motherhood was woman’s work!Leigh, here on the nearly all boys club AVC, I’m just trying to ‘sugar up’ (borrowing from an old Bogie movie) you girls!Gee, in the TCP/IP socket communications between my Web page and my compute server, the class instance deserialization is not working! Essentially the same code is working fine between the Web page and my session state store, so the bug should not be too difficult to find! See, now? See how much easier it is to involve you girls by talking about parenting and motherhood than talking tech?? :-)!I’m sorry, Leigh, back when girls my age were skipping rope like in your avatar, I got used to teasing girls and never got over it. Sometimes it made the girls smile. For one girl, her smiles were so good I thought I could give up food and water and live just on her smiles. Of course, likely some of the other smiles were just forced instead of just slapping me!The girls in my school must have been really nice because actually I nearly never got slapped! Not that I would have minded, you understand! I mean, what pain can a slap from a girl, a GIRL!, be compared with what I went through in football practice, after school fights, getting knocked off my bicycle, hitting my left thumb with a small sledge hammer when trying to clean mortar off some old bricks, etc.?Back in those days of bicycles and girls jumping rope, it seemed totally obvious to me that the girls were different! E.g., if I got hurt badly enough, some of the girls could look concerned — really nice! Then in recent years I was supposed to believe that the girls were ‘just the same’. I had to go back to E. Fromm’s book remind myself that “Men and women deserve equal respect as persons but are not the same.”.When my wife got angry with me, a few times she wanted to respond as an ‘equal’ and hit me, although I never hit her! She wasn’t very good at hitting! She was 5′ 3″ and about 110 pounds, and she’d had no practice growing up! So, I smiled and encouraged her to hit me and offered my back or upper arms. She hit me a few times as hard as she could; I felt next to nothing; and she quit with a sore hand! Yup, girls are nice!

        1. leigh

          Lol I was mostly kidding u πŸ™‚

          1. sigmaalgebra

            Gee, I tease a girl and get teased back!Gee, AVC is better than high school!

          2. leigh

            Most things are better than high school πŸ™‚

  13. ShanaC

    I just like this post.Congrats to her and to the new space.