The Revolving Door

USV is a revolving door when it comes to our analyst program. We hire the smartest young people we can find (Jennifer and Jacqueline are our newest hires) and ask them to spend two years with us learning the VC business and helping us make and manage our investments. Then we ask them to move on to bigger and better things. It’s a great deal for both parties. We get really smart people early in their career on a steep learning curve throwing themselves at our business. And they get to learn from partners who collectively have been doing VC for something approaching 100 years.

But when an analyst walks out the door on their last day, I always ask myself privately “what the hell are we thinking.” That’s how it was yesterday with Jonathan who is leaving to be the first product manager at our portfolio company Figure1. It’s a perfect match for Figure1 and Jonathan. In fact, when he interviewed for the analyst job, Jonathan suggested we invest in Figure1, not knowing that we already had or were about to. That’s how we knew he’d be great at the job. And he was. Although, as he wrote in this fantastic post, the job was not always easy on him and it took time to learn the things you need to learn to be successful at USV.

Even though I ask myself what we are thinking letting these amazing people go through the revolving door, I remain convinced that it is the best thing for them and for USV. The USV analyst program alumni group is an incredibly impressive group of people who have gone on to do substantial things. Things they maybe would not have done if they had stayed at USV. And I remind myself that leaving my first VC job was the beginning of my evolution into who I am today.

So while I remain convinced that it is the right thing to have a revolving door at USV, I am going to miss Jonathan, as I miss Charlie, Andrew, Eric, Christina, Brian, Zander (and Gary and Brittany too).

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Mike Zamansky

    A friend relayed a story about when his old boss tried to recruit him back to the top tier company he left to do his own thing.My friend explained: “Every year, you’re going to take in the best talent and train them up. You get their ideas and energy but eventually, they’ve got to be more than a cog in your wheel.”Grooming talent for even bigger things is a really important role in the ecosystem and in many ways everyone wins.Of course, there’s also probably a Kentucky BBall joke in here somewhere about one and dones.

  2. Twain Twain

    Maybe USV analysts are like bees away from the hive, cross-pollinating the flowers so they blossom and produce better honey.

    1. awaldstein

      as an ex beekeeper, geek wise pollination creates healthier plants as the key to why bees are so interesting. They are doing one thing–collecting nectar to create honey to feed themselves–and in actually forming a vital pollination role for the ecosystem as society and ecosystem to study.

      1. Twain Twain

        It would be so cool to keep bees and be able to make our own honey! TSome of the top NY hotels are keeping bees to make honey as special gifts for people who stay there.

        1. awaldstein

          I did if for years. Considering getting a small place upstate and if I do, hives will follow,Do note that there over 500 hives (?) in NYC on rooftops

          1. Twain Twain

            Small orchard that produces cherries and apples for use in baking pies and making jams, beehive for honey and a little wood-fire oven for pizza is what I’m working towards.Have you also created a vineyard?In Napa Valley I discovered… which does a great Pinot Noir Rosetto.They use proper French oak barrels and only use them once or twice.

          2. awaldstein

            all in on bees.I’ve already done my back to the land thing, maybe again though as it has a nice appeal, especially as you can work from anywhere.never created a vineyard but know a bit about how to make wine. in the duoro and savoie in a few wine.we may be able to enjoy honey together but the oaking of wine is not my style.with wine, i strongly believe that all tastes are good if you enjoy enjoy!

          3. pointsnfigures

            Chicago has hundreds of hives on rooftops. I harvested some honey from the West Loop a couple of years ago and it was outstanding.

          4. awaldstein

            coolme harvesting a swarm in Grindrod BC. i’m the one holding the swarm, nevar my partner is preparing the hive.

  3. mikenolan99

    Nurturing and mentoring employees has been one of the great joys of my life – one that I learned from my father. I grew up watching him take such great pride in the careers that his employees went on to have.It’s a pretty impressive list – Back in the late 60s/early 70s my dad hired a great newsman to be the first black news director in big market radio. I’m sure that the big-wigs in New York never suspected that Bernie Shaw would one day be CNN’s Bernard Shaw.Pete Lund, a great rep in Chicago – who my dad was told would never amount to anything – rose to be President of CBS. And our dear family friend Chico Kurzawski was an assistant athletic director hired to do color commentary on Northwestern Football games. He rose to run the Chicago Group W rep firm, and later became the sausage King of Chicago. And there are a dozen more Phil Nolan stories. At his funeral, 18 years after his retirement, his entire staff showed up at his funeral… except the two that were on the air. He would understand.My dad would often “kick” people out of the nest – arranging interviews for bigger and better jobs. He often told me that losing great people was difficult – but it is just what you do. It is the right thing to do.

    1. fredwilson

      Kicking out of the nest is a great analogy

  4. William Mougayar

    I met and interacted with all your analysts. I’ll admit- you hire very well.

  5. cavepainting

    yes, revolving door… but more like a ladder given by USV that they can use to hoist themselves to their next preferred destination. It needs a big heart to do this and hats off to you guys for investing the time and effort to mentor these talented young men and women. The in-built time limit is a necessary feature for the program to work well.

  6. LIAD

    …if you love something, set it free

    1. fredwilson

      Yes with kids. No with wife

      1. LIAD

        such a badass

        1. Sam

          She is indeed

      2. pointsnfigures

        depends on your definition of freedom, but yes, must keep in the nest.

  7. Twain Twain

    It’s great USV’s two new analysts are technical women with backgrounds in computational biology, statistical methods for big data and AI.Obviously useful for healthcare.Also because … “Girls Think of Everything”.

    1. JLM

      .May I go on record protesting what is your obvious assault on my sensitivities as it relates to your obvious and hateful gender bias.To focus your attention on the gender of these “persons” makes me feel worthless and damaged as a male of the species.In the future, please refrain from such hate speech and try to strike a more even handed appreciation for the insensitivity of your utterances.I am retreating to my safe zone (Red’s Indoor Range in Oak Hill where I am going to fire off 200 rounds of .380 Beretta pistol fire to shore up my weakened and damaged masculinity).JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. LE

        Or at least use trigger warnings.

        1. JLM

          .Exactly. Exactly. Trigger words — hate speech.I take it you’re with me. It’s time for men to stand up and be…well…men.They can’t push us around any more.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. LE

            Nytimes this morning (front page, below the fold) article….

          2. Matt Zagaja

            In an open society we live in a world where people grew up with Internet comment sections. Where previously when people were offended by something they’d presume good faith and/or have a civil conversation, today’s world involves “calling out” others who offend or disagree with us. The toolkit of persuasion now seems to involve more full contact than dialogue. Sometimes the best way to avoid being tackled is to know where the linebackers are.

          3. LE

            Exactly. And like I said with social media everyone is voting on everything where “everyone” = “people who use social media and appear larger and more important than they are”.I don’t think thought it was because people would presume good faith. I just think it’s because there was no friction free and easy way to amplify what you thought and have others take notice. Additionally main stream media has much more competition so they are more eager to offer content that they pick up on in order to stand out and sell advertising space. So several elements come together to make this possible. And people have developed a knack for knowing the types of thing that will get others attention.Back in the 80’s I did a business idea, err, PR stunt, that ended up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and from there in dozens of other important places. That took a great deal of work months of strategy to get done. (No pr firm needed btw..) Today I’d be able to do that trivially and not only that I could iterate 20 different stunts in the same time with much greater chance of success (but of course with much greater competition for attention which is why the extra effort is good the way I look at it keeps others out of the game).

          4. jason wright

            “a freshman tentatively raises her hand…”- her uncertainty is understandable.

          5. LE

            Did you hear that Gretchen Carlson got $20,000,000 dollars from Fox because of the Roger Ailes affair?Unprecedented for was she suffered? What was door number two that would make them settle so quickly for so much? I don’t buy that it was to settle a PR problem move on or anything even close. I don’t think it was to avoid a long protracted battle (that they could have strung out forever and avoided paying). I don’t think it was to prevent a jury from awarding more money (which they could have still negotiated down).You know why they did this? [1]Because Gretchen knows where the bodies were buried and they paid her off so she would keep her mouth shut. Just showing once again that money almost always Trump’s doing what is right.[1] My theory, haven’t read or heard anymore about this but thought that immediately when hearing the ridiculous number.

          6. JLM

            .I imagine this is small potatoes in the greater scheme of things.Gretchen — Miss America, Stanford/Oxford — was the wrong woman to harass.It will be interesting to see where she lands.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          7. LE

            Large companies don’t piss away $20 million because it’s small potatoes. Try and sell them something for $10 and see how easy it is.That said saying that “Miss America, Stanford/Oxford was the wrong woman to harass” doesn’t jive with why same person let this happen in the first place and didn’t clamp or lay the line when it started. Besides, even a non MA/S/O woman certainly discusses things with others and is advised. [1] [2][1] Monica and Linda Tripp as only one example. Any divorced woman with an attorney as another example.[2] So we have two things. One is did the first advance happen in 2016. The second is did she know of others that this happened to and not say anything or try and help the other woman? If both answers are “no” it makes no sense why $20 million was paid for one he said she said sexual advance (as opposed to something with a long paper trail which is my point of “why wait to say something”.)

          8. JLM

            .Woman scorned. She got canned and then she LEARNED them some stuff.Happens all the time.She, apparently, had audio evidence.JLMwww.themusingsoftheibigredc…

          9. Twain Twain

            Re small potatoes, Ailes got $40 million in his severance payment and none of that will go towards Carlson’s $20 million payment. Moreover, it was reported he’d continue to be paid as an external consultant to Fox News and is a consultant to Trump.@le_on_avc:disqus and @philipsugar:disqus are both right. It’s as difficult to get $10 as $10 million from a big co.

          10. PhilipSugar

            No.That is the big number is the same amount of pain to get $10 or $10mm from a big company.Not saying either is easy. Saying they are both the same amount of hard.

          11. Donna Brewington White

            Go hug your Husqy.

          12. JLM

            .’In my entire life, I have never been invited to hug a chain saw. Don’t get me wrong, I love that chain saw, still.Do not tell anyone I was just kidding.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          13. Donna Brewington White

            Certain discussions on AVC, often led by you, have added a new appreciation for the chain saw to my life. My husband borrows one from our neighbor so he may very well find one under the Christmas tree one year — we will pretend it is for him.

          14. JLM

            .Chain saws and power washers — tell me whether a man has these tools of manhood, what brand and I will tell you exactly what kind of man he is.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      2. Twain Twain

        Haha, JLM. This morning I read Nick Bilton’s ‘Vanity Fair’ article on Theranos in which he wrote:”It generally works like this: the venture capitalists (who are mostly white men) don’t really know what they’re doing with any certainty—it’s impossible, after all, to truly predict the next big thing—so they bet a little bit on every company that they can with the hope that one of them hits it big. The entrepreneurs (also mostly white men) often work on a lot of meaningless stuff, like using code to deliver frozen yogurt more expeditiously or apps that let you say “Yo!” (and only “Yo!”) to your friends. The entrepreneurs generally glorify their efforts by saying that their innovation could change the world, which tends to appease the venture capitalists, because they can also pretend they’re not there only to make money. And this also helps seduce the tech press (also largely comprised of white men), which is often ready to play a game of access in exchange for a few more page views of their story about the company that is trying to change the world by getting frozen yogurt to customers more expeditiously.”

        1. JLM

          .Actually, the white boys are suckers for blondes in turtle necks. She copied it from some guy named Jobs (who was that black turtle-necked man?).Men are ridiculously easy to be manipulated. Next life, I come back as a tall, leggy blonde. [Hey, wait, I am a tall, leggy blonde guy. I used to be anyway.]Left out the most important part — tall, leggy blonde woman.Men are so easy.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. Twain Twain

            Not peroxiding my Chinese black hair any time soon!

      3. Twain Twain

        In AI, there’ve been a number of articles showing that the LACK OF DIVERSITY is directly affecting the systems that are supposed to be representative and serve ALL OF US.In fact, it’s not simply about HR quotas and “the pipeline problem”. It’s about the bias of male minds being systematized in the way code’s designed and frameworked — things that are holding back innovation in AI, especially Natural Language understanding.Oh and it’s male minds that are pure Rational Scientist-types who don’t grasp that Liberal Arts intelligence is just as valuable as mathematical ability intelligence.

        1. creative group

          Twain Twain:Diversity is a word used to ask those with exclusive rights and privileges to share. Why would people who have the exclusive rights and privileges want to change anything? They actually don’t see anything wrong with having exclusive rights and privileges.

          1. Twain Twain

            Diversity’s about democratic representation. Ergo, anyone who believes in and fights for democracy should also believe and fight for diversity.It’s simple, really, :*).

      4. Twain Twain

        Male AI researchers are aware of the importance of diversity and yet … they source according to THEIR biases (creating self-reinforcing echo chamber of people who see+solve things in the same way as them) — whereas I source and cross-pollinate knowhow from anyone and everyone I can.This is why USV’s inspired choice to bring in 2 technical female analysts is to be celebrated.

      5. creative group

        JLM:when someone, anyone, a person highlights the attributes of a group, person, etc it doesn’t take away the contributions made by someone or group not highlighted. Any response that appears misogynistic (reread defenders of ancient thought) on anything women have contributed to society should not reduce you to seeking the highlighted therapy of shooting a weapon to show a false sense of masculinity. (Fistfights relieve more stress) There are always larger weapons, the brain!Again your operational business acumen is invited. It is when you share thoughts outside of that when it becomes confusing, troubling and hopefully joking.

        1. Twain Twain

          JLM has a great sense of wit and, as a human, I parsed his comment in the way it was intended: tongue-in-cheek.Now, if I was a Natural Language AI, the sentiment analysis might have wrongly classified his comments as “negative” but I’ve benefited from enough proof points of JLM’s sensibilities that I know he’s joking.:*).

          1. creative group

            Twain Twain:”hopefully joking”.Did you even read the entries regarding Gretchen Carlson.Very different viewpoints on feminism and women’s struggles for equality. And standing up for them. Another lesson learned.

          2. Twain Twain

            Thanks, I hadn’t read JLM’s comments re the Carlson case.I was just responding specifically to his “May I go on record protesting what is your obvious assault on my sensitivities as it relates to your obvious and hateful gender bias.”I could tell he was using a joking tone with me when he ended it with “I am going to fire off 200 rounds of .380 Beretta pistol fire to shore up my weakened and damaged masculinity).”JLM’s secure in himself and his masculinity is not in the least bit threatened by intelligent women (as shown by the fact he coaches @donnawhite:disqus) .And you’re right: “when someone, anyone, a person highlights the attributes of a group, person, etc it doesn’t take away the contributions made by someone or group not highlighted.”When we celebrate people like Katherine Johnson it’s ADDITIVE to us celebrating Neil Armstrong and NASA’s achievements.

      6. panterosa,

        Said the dad who raised a red-headed force of nature…ha!

    2. LE

      I’ve always felt that there are many things around the house (one example) that aren’t simplified, easier or more efficient simply because they are not traditional mens jobs.Take the washer and dryer. Anyone who has done the wash knows the benefit of having more than one washer and dryer. If men were doing the wash this would have been solved (space wise) and built into houses years ago. And they would automatically see the value in buying 4 machines (or more) instead of two. [1] Look at all of the gizmos that men have to do their jobs just a little quicker or to make them more fun. (Just walk through a Lowes store or look at mens hobbies…) Or what they put into cars. This could be because women think differently but also because men are more in control seat of the pants of the problem solving infrastructure and companies.[1] As anyone who has ever hogged machines in a building laundromat knows.

      1. Twain Twain

        Ah, men can be wonderful inventors and so can women.The best inventions are male+female teams, e.g.:* Computing = Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace* Wifi = Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil* STP for the Internet = Radia Perlman + Digital Equipment Corp team

  8. Fraser

    Nearly a decade ago you mentioned to me that this was the plan. You wanted it to feel like McKinsey, both in terms of the strength of the alumni network as well as the respect the brand garnered. It’s cool to see this play out.

    1. Paul Robert Cary

      Great vision. See Entrepreneur First ( in the UK for two outstanding McK alumni.

  9. David Noël

    What an impressive list of alumni!

  10. jason wright

    do they have a ‘USV’ tattoo?

  11. Jonathan Libov

    From the analyst’s perspective, it is a little weird. I think some analysts pick the job up faster than others, but by the end of their ~2 years everyone has a good handle on the job and a great rapport with the team at USV. Then once you get a handle on it, it’s time to leave. And there’s a feeling of, “Now that I know what I’m doing I gotta leave?”So it’s weird, but it’s also good in a way that’s not all that different from shipping product: If by the time of release you’re not panicked that there was so much more you could do, you should have released earlier.

  12. andrewparker

    At the time of my joining the analyst program, my choice was between matriculating to a graduate program in Columbia’s CS dept and USV. Both were school… one was just a bit more practical and came with a salary instead of tuition checks. USV is an education, and graduation is a fundamental part of education.I like the idea that there is a group of incredibly talented people that shared my same education, but not at the same time as me. I wish Jennifer and Jacqueline the best of luck as they get going.

    1. Jonathan Libov

      I applied for the USV job one month after getting rejected for the Master’s program in CS at Cornell Tech. And I’m sure as hell it worked out this way.

  13. awaldstein

    Love this post.More and more I believe that experience and maturity breed both better processes and equally more nuances and consideration in our decision making.It is fine to be unsure about good decisions.

  14. ErikSchwartz

    Congrats to all.

  15. Richard

    Fear not, if everyone is as good as you say they are at the job of an analyst, perhaps the skill set required to be an awesome analysis is relatively common.

  16. jacqueline_usv

    Being an analyst at USV is a very unique opportunity. I spent a lot of time thinking about my next step, as the predominant advice given to me when looking for my next gig was that I should think about the people I want to shape my way of thinking and let into my brain. There’s a difference between valuing someone’s success and valuing their input on your life/career. It’s rare to find both in a person, let alone in multiple people within a firm. As Jonathan likes to tell me, “when you’re an analyst here, all the wisdom is in front of you.” I’m really looking forward to absorbing everything I can in the revolving door.

    1. PhilipSugar

      Godspeed on that journey. I am sure you will learn a ton.

    2. Donna Brewington White

      So very well said. Congratulations Jacqueline! This is going to be great!

  17. OurielOhayon

    i know the feeling of letting Jonathan go :)he will be perfect for this job

  18. pointsnfigures

    I recall @jerrycolonna’s podcast with you and @bradfeld. You built the company you wanted to work for so having planned turnover in the analyst part must be a planned part of the culture you wanted to create. I was part of a board that had that culture. If it’s planned, and everyone rotates off in a systematic fashion, it’s really healthy for the organization

  19. Frank Traylor

    You are doing a great service, far beyond the economics of the firm. As do grade school teachers you’ll feel a sense of contribution when your charges make an impact in the world with the foundation you’ve provided.

  20. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:Is the concept of intern’s for a defined period similar to day labor or contract workers? Harvesting young creativity?Is this a concept at mirroring how big business copies the look of start-ups visually. Open floor plans, ping pong tables, free food and not forgetting living at work and working your posterior off. (Not an indictment of USV but just a cursory view from the outside)A business is created to make money no matter the civic mission statements attached. Margins are pushed to receive the best return for all companies.Has the mission statement and overall business plan evolved socially over the years? Hopefully yes.

  21. PhilipSugar

    My two biggest complements quoting me on this blog:Fred Wilson:Do not think that the reason you aren’t scaling is because you need to bring in outside management. That will kill a team.This is the biggest worry I have because some will read this and think, I’m not growing what I need to do is turn the team, and that is just wrong.Jerry Colonna:Listen close enough and you’ll hear echoes of this from every conceivable source.Phil Sugar, tells us who he is and what he believes in the simple statement that, “My biggest legacy is the network of people I’ve hired and what they’ve gone on to do.”Your job, your responsibility, your mission, your moral obligation. Is one thing:You provide people a place where they can thrive and grow.I am a very, very, very, capitalist person.I do not believe in Albert’s cause of basic wage.But I strongly believe in that my obligation on this earth is to provide a place where people can grow. And just like children, they will leave the nest.I believe they can do this with honor and dignity.If you want to see me go nuclear…..try and strip people of honor and dignity.Don’t work???? Tough shit. No honor, no dignity.Work??? I will always find you a job.Fred: You did this. It is the ultimate respect.Yes. They are not going to get your job or your wealth.For those that think everybody is a winner: Too fucking bad.But as they say you are teaching somebody how to fish, not giving them a fish.

    1. mikenolan99

      Totally going to borrow this line: “If you want to see me go nuclear…..try and strip people of honor and dignity.”So much truth here….

  22. Edward Keating

    I started my career at a small subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company. We were 120 employees at our peak and every year many of us would leave the nest to go work in other divisions of the company and elsewhere. It worked well for all parties as the talent was propagated throughout the enterprise through these ambassadors. Our CEO also felt it was the right thing to do even though he “lost talent”.

  23. Jonathan Nation

    There is so much in this post that reminds me of The Alliance by Reid Hoffman, from the Transformational Tours of Duty to the Alumni network.Really interesting, thanks @fredwilson:disqus for sharing that insight into that.

  24. ShanaC

    For everything, a turn and a season

  25. Chris Phenner

    I like the part of this post that ‘misses people’ (and respects their talents), while we have to acknowledge that their contributions to USV have them participate in ZERO USV Upside — unless I am missing an arrangement you have with them (and I may be).For all the things USV does well and openly, it is a small partnership where only its partners participate in upside, and perhaps that’s just the way of The World (alas).But if a Revolving Door creates ‘real angst,’ and if you think there is Brain Drain (amongst your analysts and via folks on AVC), why not create a way for more to benefit?Option 1: Express angst & regretOption 2: Do something about itStill a ‘nice’ post, lacking action.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Just because something causes discomfort doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

  26. jason wright

    A flock of geese just flew over my house in v formation, and squawking! (It’s early). I like the way they coordinate, cooperate, and seem to know exactly where they’re going. A lesson in life from another species.

  27. Donna Brewington White

    It’s gotta be hard to see them go. I remember the recruiting effort that brought on Gary and Christina. I even applied myself as a sort of Hail Mary! Ha! Fred’s “no” was a lot more gratifying than many of the yeses I’ve received. We’ve all come so far. And your transparent recruiting process inspired me as a recruiter. So it was shocking and a bit sentimental to see how many have come and gone since I first discovered AVC/USV and inspiring to see how well they’ve done. Can’t believe Andrew and Eric were still analysts when I first dropped by here.These people are some of USV’s best investments yet and speak just as well of your judgment as some of your best portfolio companies.

  28. RichardF

    great post by Jonathan

  29. Semil Shah

    There isn’t much mentoring or apprenticing left in VC. Thanks for doing it, I know that I have mentored via this blog.

  30. PhilipSugar

    I think if it’s not a rule that causes problems.Here is why: You are now signaling.When you have a two year and out program at the end of two years everybody knows you are getting the best if you hire that person.They were prescreened, worked their ass off, and then need to find a new role.If some stay and some don’t……well at the end of the two years you are getting those that weren’t good enough to stay.It’s why people do it that way.