Aiming Blog Posts

I got a note yesterday from a CEO I work with asking if a specific blog post was aimed at him.

I replied and told him that I try very hard not to aim blog posts at anyone or any company. 

Of course I have those temptations from time to time but I feel that using this blog as a way to send a message to someone or some company is not appropriate and I don’t do that.

I am certain that people will read stuff on this blog and think “that is about the company I work at” of “he is taking about our CEO.”

I would like to make it clear that while it’s easy to see why people would think that, that is not what is going on.

I work with a lot of companies and we see many more that we don’t end up investing in and working with. They share common traits and we see many patterns that emerge. I like to write about those patterns and when I do that I’m writing about something that I see in many companies. Your company may exhibit those characteristics but I am not writing about a specific company.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Jess Bachman

    I am assuming from my note yesterday that this post is about me…

    1. fredwilson


  2. abn

    Mad props on the Chinese firewall. I don’t think I could do it 🙂

  3. JimHirshfield

    “It’s not you, it’s me”

  4. William Mougayar

    Working with companies gives a lot of inspiration to write about stuff.

    1. LE

      Being a curious person I’d actually pay for a premium version to get the real dirt.

      1. William Mougayar

        ha, i’m sure you get your share of real dirt in your deals :)every type of job has its good, bad, ugly and dirty.

        1. LE

          Only my wife knows and only when things are done and never any of the specific details (she really isn’t interested in the play by play which is actually unfortunate since I kind of wish she was..)

  5. Twain Twain

    Here are two great minds — one scientist, one artist — on coincidence.I pop by AVC and am constantly struck by the coincidences of what each of us is working on, seeing, reading, learning, journeying through.I take the content for what it is (not aimed at me or anyone / company specifically). Just more food for thought and action.

    1. panterosa,

      Cue Biomorphic Resonance and Rupert Sheldrake!

      1. Twain Twain

        Here’s Max Tegmark of MIT and his Perceptronium theory.*…The relevancy is this: each of us PERCEIVES Fred’s posts in a different way from what he sees as his objectivity.It’s not obvious but this is an example of subject+object entanglement (very Schrödinger’s Cat; dead and alive — depending on perception of whether we see light as a wave and/or particle).How does this connect with Machine Intelligence and robotics?The assumption is the machines become conscious when there’s some type of biomorphic resonance and autonomy triggered by those biomorphic sensors (light, sound, visual, haptic pressures etc.).Not necessarily so, says Twain.Now, the term “coincidence” has connotations with the term “chance” which leads us to think we can measure coincidence with Probability in the same way we do the chance of coin flips.Not necessarily so, says Twain.There’s a clue in Coehlo: Coincidence is the LANGUAGE of the stars.Coincidence ≠ Chance just as causation ≠ correlation and Perceptions ≠ Probabilistic Pattern Recognition.

  6. LIAD

    You’d have thought Larry Page would have known better.

    1. JimHirshfield

      But seriously, since Fred does identify certain people and companies openly in some blog posts, it’s only natural to assume that he’s referring to portfolio companies when he doesn’t disclose names.

  7. Anne Libby

    Blogging/”working in public” is tough when you’re in a People business.

    1. LE

      I don’t know how anyone could have a valid reason to complain if/when this happens to them. Fred blogs and of course it’s possible that he might say something by accident or even want to use something he knows in an example. More or less one of the reasons many people stop by here.Live by the sword die by the sword is an appropriate saying.If I was in Fred’s situation I would discuss and highlight my rule that I call “the owner of the information”. Big poster on the wall. Point to the poster.That rule states that I recognize that every attempt will be made to keep something private that is supposed to be private. However please recognize that with all of the info that is bandied about it is simply not possible to keep track of things you are or are not supposed to say or repeat. Not everything rises to the level of “murder” (obvious) to trivial or much less important. “Joe is getting a new job…”. [1]As such once some info is out there you really can’t get mad at someone if they inadvertently, and not on purpose, end up releasing it further.If you don’t want something to be know, simply don’t tell anyone.In business of course there is the presumption that info shared is private and not to be shared or blogged about. But that doesn’t extend to everything and anything that someone tells you.[1] I always find it amazing that Bill Clinton didn’t see the possibility that a girl in her 20’s wouldn’t tell someone what happened in the White House.

      1. awaldstein

        complaining is human nature and a right.there are no is just how it is.

        1. LE

          I certainly complain a great deal and in many cases however I am not talking about general complaining “complaining is human nature and a right” but specifically in the case of when USV invests in a person/company and then they come back and complain that Fred said something that they think is about them. And where Fred is offering that he either is not doing that or avoids it if possible. Noting he could slip here and there which is to be expected.To me this “complaining” or “whining” is similar to celebrities issues with paparazzi. When you go into entertainment (and/or politics) you lose any expectation of privacy. It’s the bed that you have chosen.I can walk anywhere and do anything that I want and it’s not front page news or any news. So can you. If I decided I wanted to be a celebrity, and was actually able to pull that off, then I lose the right to complain about the heat that goes with that. Why? Because the heat is well known in advance. It would be something that I have to live with and not, and this is important, lay the blame on others for my problems.

        2. Matt A. Myers

          I feel people don’t complain enough actually – not meaning to be ironic…

          1. awaldstein

            I”m not a complainer.I find it both completely unproductive and overtly unattractive!As a highly focused and vain individual it just does me no good!

  8. JimHirshfield

    Fred, I have a confession to make:Sometimes my comments are ALL about you. Just you. [this is one of those comments]

  9. Seth Godin

    I second this one, with a few exceptions:1. All of my complimentary blog posts are about the person reading it, specifically.2. I never write about Mick Jagger, despite what he thinks.3. If you think a blog post is about you, that’s probably a good way to read it.

    1. Jess Bachman

      re: 3. Carly Simon would beg to differ.

      1. Seth Godin

        re 2, exactly.

        1. JamesHRH

          James Taylor, no?

          1. pointsnfigures

            I think we should all blog about Mick Jagger on the same day.

          2. sigmaalgebra

            Ah, paranoid, conspiracy, collusion suspicions confirmed!

    2. Dorian Benkoil

      You’re so vain, you probably think this comment is about you.

    3. fredwilson

      That last point is a great one Seth

      1. Chimpwithcans

        Yes but that one wasn’t meant for you Fred, that was for me.

      2. PhilipSugar

        There is a lot of good humor on this blog today.

    4. Rohan


    5. JLM

      .Talked to Mick this morning and he said he doesn’t know who you are.Said to tell you, “Bugger off, mate!”He seemed angry. Not sure why.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  10. TeddyBeingTeddy

    So Tim Cook didn’t like the Phablet and watch posts, eh?

  11. Barry Nolan

    Didn’t realize Larry Page read AVC.

  12. John Pepper

    I read your blog because it feels like it’s aimed squarely at me, and we’ve never even met.

  13. LE

    Great post which also can be used as an evergreen email reply. Anytime going forward a CEO writes with a similar question you can just reply with this post.

  14. Dorian Benkoil

    Here’s a surprising parallel, and human nature. My family was friendly with a creator of Hollywood films, including “Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice,” and other famous ones from years ago. One evening, the creator told us a friend was livid at him for putting “her” in his movie. Try as he might, he couldn’t convince her that the character he’d written was not her, but was instead a composite of a lot of people he knew.

    1. LE

      Hah. Just made me think of a somewhat related parallel.When I sold my first business, a process that must have taken about 18 months several weeks prior to closing my ex wife’s friend at the time, a local radio traffic reporter, [1] told my wife about a business idea that she had that she was sure to make millions on. My wife told me the idea and it was predictably stupid and of course it never happened.Anyway about a week after closing my wife told her friend that I had sold my business. The sale had been a big secret, not even my father-in-law knew about it [2]. The friend totally, absolutely, freaked out. She actually thought, and was 100% certain, that I had sold my business in order to pursue her stupid fucking idea. [1 repeated].[1] Hopefully she reads AVC and will be offended when she reads this…[2] I didn’t tell anyone because I had spun things in a way that I didn’t want any pain in the ass bystander messing up the transaction. God knows if I had told my father-in-law he could be sitting in a restaurant somewhere talking about it or could tell someone who knew someone and something might get messed up. Loose lips sink ships and all of that. He was pretty pissed but I didn’t care.

  15. JamesHRH

    ‘ if I have something to tell you, you’ll know ‘ is the best response to the note you received.

  16. LE

    This is one of the drawbacks of the internet age and specifically social media. Having to feel more censured because anything you say (even when off the internet and in person one on one) can be so easily shared. It used to be all you had to worry about was the integrity of the person you were sharing information with. Was always a chance info would get out of course but in general even if it did it had much less if not trivial impact. And it was easy to talk your way out of blunders because there was no amplification. I’m not even talking about info contained in a written record (like an email or blog post or tweet). But more something that you might tell someone privately say in a phone call. Now that person could pass that info along to someone who might blog or tweet or post it and then you could end up being burnt toast as a result. Before you didn’t have to worry about it. Three nightly network news casts, local TV, and a few influential papers curating information. Now you have millions who all need content inventory.This is exactly what has led us down the path of all this political correctness nonsense and bullshit. Massive content and massive distribution anything that will entertain an eyeball.

  17. pointsnfigures

    In psychology, they call this the “spotlight effect”.

    1. awaldstein

      In marketing they call this knowing your market.Ideally every reader should think it was written for them.

    2. LE

      In Yellow Pages advertising for example there are two cases.1) The plumber who says “all types of plumbing we do everything”.2) The plumber who lists specific things “drains cleared” “leaky faucets fixed” “water heaters installed same day” and so on.#2 is the ad that works. People key in to something they are looking for and when they see that they feel they have found the right plumber and that he is a specialist in what they need. (Same for web pages and has nothing to do with SEO a separate issue). Niche specialist. Most plumbers I have ever dealt with or have seen are men by the way hence using “he” in the preceding sentence.This also relates to voting and politics whereby people are attracted to the candidate who promises something (regardless of deliverability) that is most important to the voter.In sales this is know as hot buttons. Saying something that is important to the buyer by listening to what they say they care about and not emphasizing things they don’t care about.

      1. Mike O'Horo

        LE, your plumber comment reminds me of a calendar my mother received every year from a local shoe store. The tag line read, “Specializing in men’s, women’s and children’s shoes.” Every time I saw it I thought, “As opposed to what?”

        1. LE

          Thanks for giving me an opportunity to post Mike Damone (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) “5 Point Plan”, specifically point three”Wherever you are that’s the place to be”.

        2. Cam MacRae

          So not really specializing then…

  18. Jim Peterson

    Probably the reason so many read your blog is that you are talking about them, someone they know, or something highly relevant to them.

  19. Rohan

    Thanks for sharing this, Fred.Must be tiring work abstracting to find the learning every time. But, I’m sure it is worth it.

  20. Rob K

    Names have been withheld to protect the innocent. Or the guilty.

  21. David A. Frankel

    I hadn’t thought about this before, but I have to imagine this is an added challenge for companies that work directly with you due to the megaphone you have (which by the way, is a huge added benefit to them as well). Even if you were writing about the company, it is a sign that you are highly engaged, which the majority of startups don’t have. I think the lesson here is that founders/startup CEOs/management teams need to remember they are not as unique as they think they are. Yes, executive management can be a lonely job, but narcissism is extremely limiting, distracting and unproductive. Perhaps in the time it took that CEO to compose the note to you, they could have written a blog post for their corporate/personal blog about your post, how it is similar to one he/she is dealing with, and how they are going about managing through it. A much more productive exercise in my book — and perhaps a more effective way to engage you on the issue.

  22. sigmaalgebra

    It’s better that the VCs talk about the CEOs out in public. Otherwise the CEOs would would be afraid that the VCs were talking about the CEOs behind their backs. Ah, the CEOs wouldn’t be so paranoid if the VCs weren’t talking about them all the time! :-)!

  23. Chris Phenner

    ‘What’s the right word for someone who thinks everything is about them?’…

  24. PhilipSugar

    How is this for irony……this blog post was actually pointed at somebody that CEO !!! :-)Kidding aside every blog post will be about some experience you have and experiences are had with people.However, that doesn’t mean it was specifically about that person. For instance I once said one of the traits big company people have that doesn’t translate to startups is spending to the budget, not evaluating the current situation or having tons of internal meetings instead of reaching outside the company.Now I can think of several people I’ve worked with that these statements apply to but those statements are not about them, they are just general observations through experiences.Which brings me to the last point which is very, very few of your comments are negative like mine above, which really means nobody should worry.

  25. Matt A. Myers

    So the CEO just outed himself eh? 😛