11 Years of the USV Investment Team

As part of the hiring process for our two year analyst position, we asked everyone who has worked at USV in an investment team role to make a two minute video (the same thing we ask applicants to do). We asked them to answer these two questions – when did you join USV and how has your perspective on tech changed since then? Here’s a compilation of all of the two minute videos. In its entirety it is about 25 mins long.

11 Years of the USV Investment Team from Union Square Ventures on Vimeo.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Twain Twain

    Thanks for sharing. Andrew Parker’s insights = brilliant.

  2. Jeremy Robinson

    Extraordinary video! Appreciated comments from folks who talked about technology they were wrong about, comments about pattern recognition, about people networks being as important as technology networks and the spirit of transparency present in all these videos- which might even have been crisper as one minute videos. Think you’ve performed a incredibly useful service to the community in giving us this perspective. There’s also a wonderful optimism, energy and intelligence in all these contributions. Thank you, Fred! Well done.

    1. fredwilson

      USV is a team effort, which of course includes all of these people

      1. Jeremy Robinson

        Erik Erikson coined the term Generativity. He wrote: as we all reach and go beyond midlife, we are faced with a developmental dilemma: share and develop others or go it on our own. What Erikson believed was those who do not become generative, risk stagnation.

  3. jason wright

    i want to vote on the new applicants. these people are too sane. madness makes money.

    1. LE

      Ability to speak well (per my other comment) is important but certainly other things that can’t be gleaned from a video (without the ability to ask questions) would make that approach a biased data point that would overlook a good applicant.

      1. jason wright

        there’s too much emphasis on ‘presentation’. as a proxy indicator it is unreliable.

    2. Lawrence Brass

      Guess the mad part of the equation are the entrepreneurs.

      1. jason wright

        i don’t think VCs excel at psychiatry.

  4. LE

    Interesting when Gary Chou talks about the community at Etsy being significant (and I agree). But I thought that one of the complaints that I read about Etsy is that it has moved in the same directions as, say, airbnb [1] in that larger entities with mass goods have become core to the site and that etsy may have “lost the indie cred”. I wonder if this is just obvious and inevitable as the company grows.[1] Airbnb same started as someone wanting to rent their place and now there are people who buy properties just to rent on airbnb.

    1. fredwilson

      that critique about etsy is made by a small minority of folks who wish Etsy would never change. it is not correct in the least

      1. LE

        What’s unfortunate is that that minority has apparently been getting enough attention that I made the comment that I did. Separately I think they need to do more to publicize the https://www.etsy.com/pattern pattern product that they have started to offer.

  5. LE

    Great videos. Don’t want to mention any names but I am partial to the people who appeared who showed a high degree of enthusiasm and energy level (some of them are still at USV but some have left). I wonder if the vetting process takes this quality into account.

  6. Vendita Auto

    Give me people with integrity, the company culture will mould the mindset.

  7. Lawrence Brass

    The view and experience diversity each one of them have is very interesting, awesome group of people.I was not aware about hybrid companies such as Expa, mentioned by Eric Friedman, but I am very in line with the concept. There are so many common components, software and operational, that have to be built and put in place. Makes a lot of sense to reuse those components and knowledge. A ‘startup studio’ model enables that quite nicely.

    1. fredwilson

      yup. big day.

  8. Erin

    Nice. Some very thoughtful young people there.

  9. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Wow, a lot of wisdom packed into that 25 minutes. And such a great question. Really enjoyed Gary’s thoughts about having a personal thesis, Andrew’s comment about being more optimistic about change, and Christina’s thoughts on the power of individuals.Those comments echo what I would answer if someone asked me how my perspective has changed since starting to follow AVC and Continuations about four years ago.Watching USV’s perspective and focus evolve during that time has taught me so much and has really impacted my perspective on tech and the world. I’ve gone from thinking about what’s exciting right now to what’s exciting coming down the pipeline. More of a futurist mindset, if you will, combined with an increased optimism about the future. I’m really grateful for that.

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  10. William Mougayar

    You & the USV partners must feel very proud of this alumni roster. Couple of quotes I liked, “the future is walking through your door every day”- Jonathan L. & “Everything is connected”- Brian W.Also, interesting that technology and “society” is a pervasive theme that was mentioned by several. This reflects what the USV partners are thinking about.

    1. fredwilson

      i am very proud of what they all have gone on to do. it is one of the things i am most proud of at USV

      1. PhilipSugar

        As I said in my guest post: “My biggest legacy is the network of people I’ve hired and what they’ve gone on to do.”Companies will change (like your Etsy post). People will change. But helping people grow is priceless.One of my partners who heads development just retired. The last thing he did and the thing that made him the proudest was passing the baton to junior guy who he developed into a senior over eight years.

  11. sigmaalgebra

    VideoJudging from the video today, apparently so far with the common tools it is not trivial to make a useful video. E.g., there needs to be more attention at least to sound quality and volume and lighting. Then, sure, a person in a video needs to look into the camera and look like they are involved with what they are communicating.To me, too many of the two minute video clips today are just next to useless because, due to low audio quality and volume, I can’t hear clearly the words they are saying. They would have done MUCH better just writing some text as in e-mail or a blog post.On my computer, the sound was choppy. Just why, I don’t understand: At YouTube my computer can do very well with much more in sound, sound quality, and video motion, e.g.,https://www.youtube.com/wat…than the video clips here today.Maybe the problem was at the video server.WomenUniformly or nearly so, the videos easiest to watch were from the women. Good for the women! You are all at the head of the class, by a wide margin! Congrats!To me, in this sense, the winner by another wide margin was Ms. Brittany L. Gorevic. She was good: She was by far the most engaging; one could see her face, eyes, and smile, could hear her voice and understand her words. She spoke with the most enthusiasm or nearly so.Predicting the Future of Information TechnologyIt appeared, to the extent I could understand the audio in the video clips, the content of many of the video clips concentrated on the challenges of predicting the future of information technology (IT).Okay.Well, the usual way to predict is to use reductionism, that is, look at more fundamental causes. I was surprised not to see much of such reductionism in the video clips.The Rise of Mobile ITFor what has happened with mobile IT in the last 10 years or so, it sounds like the “fundamental causes” were: Many boats got lifted by Moore’s law.In more detail, processors more appropriate for smartphones than the Intel/AMD desktop processors got developed; some amazing screens got developed; and for more there were the iPhone, Android, GPS, smartphone video, WiFi, the Internet and Web, and the smartphone app software infrastructure.Then for What Uses?So, what have been the main uses for mobile IT?My guesses in rough descending order of importance are:(1) Business communications.(2) Communications with family and friends.(3) Shopping.(4) News.(5) Simple information, e.g., weather reports, Wikipedia.(6) Entertainment.Mobile Usage Time DistributionTo understand more about mobile IT, we can ask how is user time on a smartphone (in, say, the US and the EU) distributed across various uses?My guesses in rough descending order of time are:(1) Ordinary voice telephone.(2) E-mail.(3) Text messaging.(4) Web browsing at Web sites that work well with a smartphone.(5) Facebook, via an app or the Web.(6) Twitter.(7) SnapChat.(8) Instagram.(9) Calling taxis.Mobile Device Obstacles to More UsageTo me, mobile IT has some severe obstacles to more usage. My list, in rough descending order of seriousness is:(1) Horrible keyboard.(2) Screen too small.(3) Battery life too short.(4) WiFi communications not fast/reliable enough.(5) Web browser software not really standard.(6) Not enough access to a lot of serious, old software.(7) Questionable security for important data.(8) A person’s data partitioned across more than one system image.(9) A struggle for user developed software, say, editor macros, command line scripts, etc.E.g., at SAI BI, Breitbart, Drudge Report, and more, the sites’ heavy usage of JavaScript makes the sites nearly unusable on my single core processor because at least at SAI and Breitbart the JavaScript is in an infinite loop that keeps the processor 100% busy and nearly useless for anything else. At Drudge, the JavaScript spends a lot of time initially loading and executing JavaScript code and, then, too soon interrupts my reading by reconnecting to the Web server and repeating the slow loading.So, to solve these problems with JavaScript I have some software, a combination of some editor macros, a command line script, and the standard program CURL.EXE, for getting HTTP files that rips out the JavaScript and displays just the text and most of the images. I can write such code on my desktop, X86, Windows system but on another platform would have to work my way up a steep learning curve.NO WAY do I want to give up my good tools and spend a lot of time and effort trying to replace those tools with some clearly inferior tools. NO WAY.The lesson for everyone is, for much more in IT, for business, shopping, news, information, social, family, entertainment, etc., smartphones are a highly inferior platform.Looking at SmartphonesMy view is that smartphones have been genuinely useful for people who need to have mobile communications. And smartphones have been important for third world countries without a good land-line telephone or cable TV system.Otherwise, smartphones have been mostly a fun, toy fad.For the future, smartphones and other small, mobile devices are not a good platform or even key part of more in IT and have about run their course.With high irony, our society is rushing to teach coding, but coding — e.g., even macros in spreadsheets — is much more productive on desktops — with lots of good, old software, big screens, and good keyboards — than on small mobile devices.Net, to me, starting now, smartphones and other small mobile computers are really not a promising direction for more in IT.Moore’s LawMaybe some big and really powerful things are happening rapidly now in non-volatile storage, but for processors it looks like we have about run Moore’s law to its end. So, the silicon foundries are rushing to 14, 10, and 7nm line widths. The results stand to be lower electrical power but not much more in processor speed. E.g., for our fastest processor clock speeds, we’ve been stuck at about 4 GHz for several years now.So, it is no longer the case that Moore’s law will in effect raise all boats.If we want more utility from processors, then we will have to move (A) to many more cores and software that can exploit those and (B) to new core architectures. Neither of these is easy or something that can give fast entrepreneur or VC ROI and exits.Getting RealBack to clay tablets, reading and writing have been crucial. Soon enough also was arithmetic, accounting, and geometry.WinTel? For reading and writing, they got rid of typewriters, carbon paper, correction fluid, paper versions of newspapers, magazines, and ads, photocopying machines, old typesetting, and the old means of engineering drawing. The productivity gains were astounding.Also WinTel became the main source of arithmetic and accounting.Moore’s law got rid of photographic film.With the Internet WinTel also got rid of FAX machines and a lot in USPS mail, paper catalogs, and libraries with card catalogs.That’s basically what the heck happened, and it was terrific.But we should have our eyes open at the simplicity: We got progress in reading, writing, arithmetic, images, audio, video, and communications of such.The economic gains were just astoundingly high, but those huge economic gains have basically run their course.So, now what?The Future of ITWe already know what nearly everyone wants in the famous one word answer “More”.Here the key part of “more” is economic gains. The key part is not just “fuzzy-bunny play time”, not for the next big step forward in big bucks, IT, and civilization.For IT and such gains, what I see that seems quite feasible now or soon is mostly just:(1) Better means of developing routine software. The first big step here is much better documentation from, say, Microsoft. For that, the main prerequisite is 99 44/100% of the needed skills in technical writing. To me, documentation is the biggest bottleneck in the near future of IT.(2) More powerful software.(3) More in economically valuable automation.(4) More in information, for nearly all there is or will be in life, the economy, national security, and civilization.As an entrepreneur interested in the valuable new things now or soon from IT, that’s where I look and would recommend the same for others so interested.WarningFor entrepreneurs and especially VCs, what is just crucial is not the usual, the big picture, the average, but ONLY the EXCEPTIONAL, indeed, the very RARE EXCEPTIONAL. How rare? So far, no more than a few cases a decade.So, for both entrepreneurs and VCs, a major challenge is getting out of the usual and getting good at recognizing the very exceptional.How to do that? Of course, the key is the technology, and for that part we have some good examples from much of the best of academic research and, building on that, some fantastic examples from projects for US health care and US national security.That’s where the good examples are. There it is possible to envision very rare, highly exceptional results and, then, achieve them with high reliability.

  12. aminTorres

    Great group of people and clearly a great role. I am I bit disappointed that “design” is not mentioned once by any of the former or current analysts.I am not qualified for the job but if I were applying I would try to use some of the time at USV to study the role of design in society and try to work with portfolio companies to help them leverage design to make smarter products. I am not talking about the visual design only but about the role that design plays from anything to increase sales to stopping online harassment in social networks to the importance of brand as a company equity.In a world were design is becoming more invisible, voice, bots, ect., the role of design is even much more important right now.

  13. Matt Zagaja

    +1 for the thesis. I think it’s one of the biggest takeaways I’ve had from following USV generally and it has been very helpful in “aiming” where I want to go in my career.