Video Of The Week: Community Based Portfolio Management

My colleague Brittany Gorevic gave a talk at the Slush Conference a last month about how we use community to help our portfolio help each other. It’s a quick 12min talk that explains how we do it.


Comments (Archived):

  1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    I started viewing as a coffee break on a Saturday morning. (relaxed mode).Brittany seemed a little tense / unnatural as she kicked off, (until she got over the “count the people” step) – I guess that relates to an “ask” which is a bit artificial (deliberately so).However as soon as Brittany got onto Duolingo and even more so with Cloudflare I was fully absorbed. I think this was a great simple presentation and I am sure there are many other learning examples she could come up with,I would love to read a blog post that gave her the chance to expand on a few more “engagement” examples, especially like Cloudflare where they relate to culture and values.Good work – thanks

    1. LE

      (until she got over the “count the people” step)Brittany did a great job and I enjoyed the video however I didn’t think that was a good way to illustrate the point that she was making. Simply because that is in no way close to how you would actually determine the number of people in a picture like that or approximate it. [1][1] One non tech way might be to count one small area and then simply multiply by the total size of the picture.

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Yup – I wanted to make the point but not take it away from a great presentation. I felt the example was a bit shoe-horned. I see easier faster and natural solutions to illustrate collaboration: EGHey – you two – come up here and stretch that rope out straight .Then ask them to do it without collaborating – some things need collaboration.

      2. Richard


        1. LE

          Exactly. Related concept:Estimate size of room with drop suspended ceilings. Tiles are either 2×2 or 2×4 typically so just multiply and viola you have the size of the room. Ditto for floor tiles in many cases.Another: In many cases you can estimate the business a traditional supermarket does by just knowing how much milk or bread it sells.

      3. Brittany Laughlin

        I’m open to ideas on better openers in case I do give a variation on this talk.

        1. LE

          I would be glad to help you with this (you can get my email from Nick/Fred who has it). On a quick thought I would have posed the question of “how many people are in this room” rather then the photo. That would have probably made some people stand up and look around (depending on the venue and the culture of course) which would have been a better segue to “the guy or girl sitting next to you”. Or perhaps you could then ask “anyone want to offer the solution to this question (rather than the answer)”. And either someone would come up with a solution that was what you wanted “bingo” or not “well then why not just do it this way?”). Of course part of the problem is 20 seconds isn’t enough time so you need a way to get around that limitation and maybe say instead “I will give you 30 seconds to come up with a strategy to find how many people are in this room” (I like room better because it makes people look around the room rather than a photo which makes them stare at the screen..) Look around the room gets you halfway to what you are trying to prove “others”.

          1. Brittany Laughlin

            Great insights, thank you!

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Hi BrittanyTweeted it out. Absolutely agree with you on lost opportunity and changes of perspective. Certainly will apply some of your thoughts, and as we begin to grow headcount you have provided some good actionable advice.ThanksBTW – nice direct presentation

        1. Brittany Laughlin

          thanks James, feedback and twitter share is appreciated!

  2. awaldstein

    I’m curious about using the ideas of networks and community interchangeably.They are not necessarily the same thing.

    1. Aviah Laor

      The story of duckduckgo reminds the early days of Twitter. When a platform just starts, it’s a community, with all the help and the good will. When it takes off, it’s a network, and many community features are removed (but this is true for a lot of human organized structures). Maybe networks like KoKo can bring a positive change, because I can’t imagine it growing without preserving a strong community.

      1. awaldstein

        Koko–new to me?Dunno if that’s the evolutionary ladder.On one hand there are a lot of old school brick and mortar huge communities like church and school groups that are communities I think pining for tools and platforms.On the other I believe that across the nets we inhabit we have many communities that we belong to. Not one deep one but a number almost atomic in nature.Take a look at this post and let me know what you think:Can you platform community? of my favorite topics and I learn a bit more each time I engage around it.Thanks for prodding me.

        1. Aviah Laor

          It’s a great post Arnold, thanks, any solution to this question should have a profound positive impact. But even having the subtle notion that a social platform is not necessarily a community (although marketed like this) is important. Koko is the new investment Fred posted about, a network around mental health. Takes time to sink in, that the new cool thing is about mental health. I think I’m less optimistic than you are… it seems to me that people are engaging less in communities, because the lack of time, and because there is an inherent conflict of interests. Communities take some of the value that the traditional markets, or platforms, want to capture. It’s not necessary as an evolutionary ladder, but the community flourish when the platform needs you more than you need it. In such times, the community is a great tool to bring people in, and encourage them to be active, e.g. when the platform starts, or tries to recover. To platform a community, we need a platform that inherently becomes stronger when it’s not gradually limits the users when it grows.

          1. awaldstein

            Great comment and thanks!Yup I”m a pragmatic optimist.Blogging a lot and doing a fair bit of consulting in the community space lately and digging in.I’m a believer.Also writing my year end post in pieces and my communities are amongst the things, this one included, that make life more fulfilled and hopeful.

    2. Brittany Laughlin

      communities are the groups of people who interact and engage.networks are interconnected communities. engagement fluctuates but there is benefit from networking local church is the community, group of national churches is the company is the community, portfolio of companies is the network. Additional communities built within the network.I believe communities become more important, since technology has provided lots of ways to be networked. Making sure you’re serving a real group of people first and then figuring out the technology.

      1. awaldstein

        Thanks for the reply.Not sure I see it this way but anything that pushes thought is a good thing.Gonna layer this back on my last few posts and see where it sticks.Have a great one.

  3. kenberger

    Very intrigued by the duckduckgo idea re partnering that drives more action to the site, although I’m not sure I heard enough to totally understand the gist.Any deeper info on this somewhere (Brittany, in case you read this)? I think there’s something big here.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen are different kinds of Instant Answers that anyone can contribute. I participated in their virtual hackathon not too long ago and contributed a “cheat sheet” for Go language.

      1. Brittany Laughlin

        Yes, you should try making something. Duck Duck Hack is also a great group of real people who love helping others build their expertise into the search engine.

  4. Twain Twain

    Thanks for sharing USV insights and knowhow.SO FUNNY Brittany quoted that African saying because I’ve been thinking about it a lot. People ask me if I’m a “lone ranger” / Jedi and the ironic thing is that I’m very much a “people person” but necessarily had to invent alone because it was the only way to go fast and to focus without getting distracted by market noise and what Steve Jobs called “paralysis by consensus”.Yet I’ve been a fan of Eric von Hippel ‘The democratization of innovation’ and wisdom of the crowds for years:*…Involving more people’s intelligence rather than narrow cliques (which results in higher risk of echo chambers) is something I’ve thought about a lot.Particularly because in AI, a lot of our inherited standards like LIWC (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) and PANAS have been defined by a few dozen academics.This is fundamentally wrong, imo.AI people go on and on about the usefulness of Probability & Statistics as tools. Yet have a total blindspot that a few dozen academics is NOT A REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLE for our 7+ billion population!!!We’re starting to see the likes of Clarifai and Facebook’s digital assistant M open up to let networks of people “train the learning machines” as well as the democratization decentralization principles of Blockchain and Google, Facebook open sourcing some of their AI tools (but not their monetizable data).It’s a step in the right direction — even if I’m more than aware that there are missing tools (especially for the AI piece of understanding Natural Language) and that’s why I had to “Go alone and fast” to invent.However, I may now have sourced the people to continue and factorially scale the next stages of the system with.

    1. Brittany Laughlin

      Yes! :”We’re starting to see the likes of Clarifai and Facebook’s digital assistant M open up to let networks of people “train the learning machines” as well as the democratization decentralization principles of Blockchain and Google, Facebook open sourcing some of their AI tools (but not their monetizable data).”

  5. William Mougayar

    The key message behind Brittany’s presentation is about sharing best practices. And that’s something that btw-, is beneficial to small and large companies alike.Sharing best practices is like ethical cheating for competitive advantage. Why re-invent all ideas, if your friend has already figured something and it worked, and you can apply it.

    1. LE

      Depends, and some would argue that there are best practices that are outdated. For example the Cloudflare downtime publicly discussed that Brittany talked about is the reverse of a long held best practice of not airing your dirty laundry. The truth is there are always exceptions to any best practice or rule. Unfortunately a new company with little history and management experience isn’t always in the best place knowledge wise to know when rules can be broken or not. Also by sharing best practices there is always the chance that your competitors will gain an edge if they find out the secret sauce ingredients. That may or may not matter and it may be overshadowed by a positive gain but it certainly needs to be considered.

  6. Salt Shaker

    Can certainly see the benefits of sharing successful strategies, community based or otherwise, with companies within the USV portfolio, but I’m curious to know what kind of successes, if any, have taken place building direct alliances between USV portfolio companies where there’s a strategic fit. Curious if there’s been a concerted effort in this area, or if there’s been any reluctance on USV’s part in getting too involved w/ this level of granularity? I think the benefits far outweigh the concerns, but I also can see how a bad marriage can be somewhat problematic for the mothership.

    1. Brittany Laughlin

      Our portfolio is technology companies and are quite savvy on how to get in touch with each other. Most BD or Sales folks are already contacting the companies that could be a potential fit. We try not to force any connection, only to open lines of communication to allow each company to make the best call about collaboration.

  7. jason wright

    why ‘Slush’?

    1. TRoberts

      Maybe like how a “slush fund” gets spread around as needed, shared among all categories?

  8. creative group

    We are convinced that short, brief and direct talks are more effective at presenting a point.Thanks for sharing Brittany Gorevic’s talk at Slush.

    1. Richard

      Not all of us, long talks rock

      1. creative group

        Rich Weisberger:Just outlining a preference. Opinions are not definitive for everyone.The presenter has a lot to do with if the audience falls asleep or stays engaged. We enjoy the later.

  9. Richard… via youtubecommunities have always needed products to bring them together. Do products bring communities together or do comminutire bring products together?

  10. Emily Steed

    Love this! Huge fan of Brittany. She is an astute pattern-spotter. This is a great talk. And wonderful quote at the end to sum it up: if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far go together. Can I request another talk: how to identify the most effective communities to partner with – for product, customers and people? Assuming each community may have a different scope.

    1. Brittany Laughlin

      Find communities that you want to be a part of and want to contribute to. Those are the best places to share ideas and find others who care about what you care about.Meetup (yes, in the USV portfolio) is always my go-to for finding new in-person communities to connect to, especially if you’re in a large city.

      1. Emily Steed

        Thanks Brittany. Totally agree. This applies to me right now. I haven’t found the right Meetup or CFO / GC startup community yet, but I am keen and am looking. Thanks to your idea, I created a Lean Policy Canvas template (with boxes that map to federal criteria for “effective” and compliant business policies). Ash Maurya gave me similar advice (my next step: pilot the Lean Policy Canvas to gather feedback). So I need to connect with CFO’s and GC’s for recently-public or pre-IPO, growing / mid-sized startups that are mature enough to want to standardize policies. From the information I have gathered, there seems to be a human tipping point where the CFO / GC realizes that he or she does not personally know everyone in the company, then they get interested in standardizing policies (most CFOs can name 2-3 business processes where they are concerned about the consistency and reliability of financial reports). Thanks for this. Any suggestions on forums for CFOs and GCs for mature startups would be great!

  11. Kirsten Lambertsen

    My first time seeing Brittany speak, and I wasn’t surprised at all to be totally impressed. That’s a rock solid talk that I’ll definitely be sharing.The CloudFlare story is a great addition because it isn’t the kind of thing that one would normally think of when talking about community. Such an effective way to go deeper into the concept.

    1. LE

      The CloudFlare story is a great additionWhat Cloudflare did is more an example of the power of publicity (positive or negative) than anything else. In some cases being an outlier in this way for sure can work to a company’s benefit. Depending on the company and the particular situation. [1] My guess is that the head of IT at $SOME_LARGE_CORPORATION after reading about this outage would most likely hold off from using cloudflare the same way a mom would not have her kids party at Chipotle because the CEO ran a full page ad in the WSJ (they did that) talking about how safe things were going to be going forward.[1] Tech type guys love this type of thing and praise it to no end.

      1. Matt Zagaja

        Honestly I had nothing but trouble the two times I tried to use CloudFlare. It always destroyed my site response times so I gave up on it. Still a big fan of Chipotle.

        1. LE

          Cloudflare has done some interesting things and I know a tech guy who I respect that thinks very highly of what they are doing. That said I didn’t personally have a good experience with them when I tried. I also note that in spot checking (from time to time) the domains that use cloudflare they are not mainstream companies (although they certainly exist). Now part of this is good for cloudflare because it helps them build their network for protection.If you want to see examples of people who use cloudflare you can take a look at these links:http://www.dailychanges.com…(Note you can get any day you want by adjusting the URL)Over time there has been a very consistent “transferred in/transferred out” of customers (free most likely).Compare for example to (traditional hosting) and you get this:http://www.dailychanges.com…Note the difference in ratios of transfer in to transfer out.(This has nothing to do with quality of service of cloudflare I am just mentioning it for discussion purposes and to illustrate..)

    2. Brittany Laughlin

      CloudFlare manages an on-going conversation with it’s avid users (and haters) via their blog. They are one of the few in our portfolio who maintain that type of open conversation around any news, good or bad.

    1. Richard

      That last of the Me decades.

    2. Brittany Laughlin

      now if only I could sing…

  12. george

    Brittany has a very pleasant presentation approach! Pondering how digital is really reshaping the fundamentals with how businesses roadmap product scaling. There use to be two primary views of thought, buy or build but today, network collaboration is really driving vastness more effectively. The dynamics of strategy are changing quickly and the opportunity to achieve density through community is nearly instant.

  13. jason wright

    “there are always more smart people outside the room than inside”