The disclosure police have been making noises in the comments here at AVC and on Twitter that suggest I do not disclose conflicts and other important information when I write about things I am close to here at AVC.
I thought I would take a moment to describe how I think about this issue:
1/ I want AVC to have a casual informal feel, like a conversation between colleagues in the office or friends over a drink at the bar. I work hard to write in a conversational tone. I like to tell stories and use my own voice.
2/ I do want to disclose when I am writing about something where I or USV has a financial interest. But I don’t want it to feel like a lawyer wrote it. So I typically will say something like “our portfolio company Coinbase” or “LittleBits, a company that the Gotham Gal and I are investors in.”
3/ My goal is not to soft pedal the disclosure. I want to do it in a way that doesn’t ruin the flow and readability of this blog.
4/ I am not going to go overboard and negatively disclose things. It was suggested yesterday on Twitter that I should have disclosed that I do not have a financial interest in AirBnb. If I don’t disclose a conflict, you should assume I don’t have one.
5/ I miss things every now and then. I write a post every morning. I am writing this one on my phone on the park bench outside my favorite coffee shop. I don’t have an editor or any review process. I will hit publish in a minute and the post will go live. As hard as I try to be diligent about disclosure, I don’t get it right 100% of the time. But I am certain I do better than 90% and likely higher than that.
6/ When people alert me to mistakes (typos, no disclosure, misspellings, etc), I will go and edit the post and address it. But many of you read this blog via email and once those go out, I cannot edit them.
7/ Check the comments if you have questions about anything in the post. The comments are a daily conversation about things I wrote in the post and I often clarify things there.
In summary, I am trying to do the right thing. I realize that I have influence via this blog and Twitter and that I could use it in ways that benefit me financially. I realize that this blog does benefit me financially. For example, I understand that my seven years of bullishness on crypto here at AVC has benefitted our personal crypto portfolio and USV’s crytpo portfolio.
But I am not blogging for those reasons. I am blogging to share my views with all of you so that I can have a dialog with the world at large about them. I am thinking out loud and learning immensely from it. That is my agenda and those of you who have been reading and hanging out here over the years understand that. My hope is that the disclosure police will too.
I do not have financial interest in Uber.I do not have financial interest in Trump Casinos.I do not have financial interest in (etc, etc)………#4 in today’s list seems absurd by any precedent that at least *I* am aware of. The tweeter seems unduly dignified by your generous linking to him.
The need for disclosure is indirectly proportionate to the author’s integrity.No disclosures needed on avc.
I agree. He is not saying he is the New York times, he is saying he is Fred Wilson.
He has more journalistic integrity than the New York Times.
Does he? Or is it just that when the NY Times says something there is no easy way to complain (article by article or paper by paper) that they are not right or have not followed standards? Sure you could write a blog but who would read it?My point is if Fred didn’t allow comments as feedback and didn’t read the feedback there would be very little to guide him in the right direction of integrity.As such he in a way should be thankful that one or two ‘angry’ customers point out something that others may be thinking but fail to voice.You know anytime a customer complains it pays to listen to them because there are X others that say nothing but never come back.  This is exactly the value that I provide to any business that I patronize.
and there are times (rare i admit) when he doesn’t allow comments. on or off.
I think it gives Fred what I call “Vietnam Flashbacks”.  As such it’s not our position to judge that reaction on his part. After all one persons enjoyment is another person’s pain.Usually when I see someone who doesn’t operate as I would  I try to think of something that would make me have similar behavior. An example along those lines is medical stories. If I am on the phone with my mother and she starts to tell me some medical story I immediately tell her to stop. I don’t want to hear, and don’t want to discuss. Obviously it’s not about her or anyone in our family. To me even just listening gives me pain and I’d rather not have the pain. As Carly said ‘haven’t got time for the pain’. On the other hand many other things that would be considered much worse don’t make me cry out in the same way. Reference to scenes in the movie ‘Deer Hunter’. Because honestly it would be enjoyable for me to banter and parry the detractors unless of course it interfered with business (which I don’t think is the reason).
you mean he’s been traumatised?
Yes I think so.
i wonder if there are psychological conditions known to be associated with being a prolific blogger, conditions formally recognised by the medical profession? perhaps he needs a checkup. perhaps we all need a checkup. this tech is still so new to the human mind. i wouldn’t be at all surprised if we are being unknowingly hurt and damaged by it.
We agree again, I hate being with old people talking about their medical conditions. I really don’t care, that is the best you have to talk about?
I really don’t care, that is the best you have to talk about?Sure but really that is judgemental like ‘I don’t like sports’ or “I don’t like music’ so ‘it’s stupid’. People like what they like. And they get reinforced by others as to what they should talk about. For example when growing up my Dad never really cared much about what I said or thought. But one thing that perked his ears was gossip. He loved gossip. So guess what? To this day I like gossip as well. Because it got my Dad’s attention. (So did good grades and other things). I have been reinforced to love gossip. You should know also that has actually helped me a great deal with women. Women love to gossip. They love that I love gossip. I bet you never thought of that angle. Gossip = Sex. Not only that but the skill has helped me in business as well and to make money and earn a living. All the thought machinations. Look anything is art not just the stuff that you think is art. If it’s not art to you it’s because you haven’t learned to appreciate it (like someone else has). We both appreciate a well built machine or quality right? But not everyone does.I think you have to reverse engineer and break down why old people talk about medical issues if not obvious. Why does anyone talk about anything? Because their brain has been reinforced to understand it like art. It’s a matter of appreciation and feedback.
I see your point. But I don’t think Fred makes up entire narratives to push an agenda (which the NYT does frequently.) If those “news” organizations had the courage to open and read comments they would have a better product that more people wanted.
.The 440 low hurdles.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
I’d say no hurdles.
Disagree totally.Disclosure is based on obligations. Fred has no obligation to any reader of AVC.
FWIW I think your disclosures are both very clear and appropriate.
I like that you decided to address this as you really have no reason for this.This is your blog. I thank you for doing it.
as you really have no reason for this People who read the blog and comment are his customers.
It is what it is, and the mature audience understands it, while the nit pickers will always nitpick. You don’t need to apologize for it.
What he said
nitpicking, or echoing? Who is ‘he’? I’m not always up with Americanisms (if you’re an American, which i think you are).
He is saying that he agrees completely which I also echo.This blog is a big part of Fred’s persona and as such I think he does take it personally.But if you don’t like it……just don’t come. The reason why people think it has so much power is because people do come. And they do because of the insight and because of the quality content and the daily consistency.Frankly this is not some website that purports to be a neutral source of news. It is a personal blog. So frankly I don’t care nor do I think it is required to disclose interests. Yes it if becomes only a way to promote his portfolio I won’t come, but that doesn’t mean it would be wrong for him to do it. If you have a company blog do you promote your company or the competition.People need to grow up. The people that whine and moan are those that haven’t done, the best they can do is whine and moan.
Pointsandfigures agrees with what William (‘he’ being William) said, which chimes with Fred’s sentiment?It’s about balance, but not compromise.
William correctly points out the mature audience realizes it is what it is. The non mature audience thinks they are owed something. Fred doesn’t owe you shit. You don’t pay him, frankly he is paying you. I don’t like Facebook, but they don’t owe me shit.Hell even the supposedly neutral publishers like Gartner, Forrester, name any magazine have a pay to play policy, which I hate.But Fred is not purporting to be that. But I know this, if I told Fred I’d pay him $X to promote my company he’d tell me to fuck off.
well re-said 🙂
Fred needs an audience or he’s talking to the bathroom mirror every morning (or worse, his cup of coffee). the web, being what it is, means that audience is going to be a broad church. as i wrote only a few days ago, i believe this blog and this audience should be brave enough to embrace the possibility that it and they are far more antifragile (something that is antifragile gains from disorder, Nassim Taleb – i.e. dissenting voices and opinions) than perhaps it and they realise. An environment in which people are discouraged from expressing their opinion is already dying. What is it, ‘bad things happen when good people say nothing’? That’s one distant end of the spectrum, but we should all do our utmost to stay as far away from that end as possible. history teaches that lesson, about very dark events, but the principle applies most everywhere we care to look in life. silence is not golden.
Nope. You completely miss the point. Say I think crypto kitties are pet rocks. Here is a reasoned argument why. Got itSay you “should” behave this way. Screw off. People from all spectrums of political views should realize this. I can’t get a straw here and q tips are being outlawed in Europe. Brexit was no surprise to me
I was watching a Military History channel on the rise of Nazism. It didn’t deal with the normal things. It was more or less ‘how this could have happened not how it happened’. So far a main point was that after WW1 the world held Germany’s feet to the flame with over 400 things of which the vast majority of them were meant to punish Germany. Punish them. Point being is they went to far. As a result the circumstances were such (the film posits) that Germans were setup to do the nasty and allow Hitler into power.This is EXACTLY the problem we are facing today actually. All that environmental stuff going totally overboard and making a backlash against what in normal doses might be a good idea or direction. Ditto as I have said for all the PC stuff whereby use of a word years ago can get you to lose your job or career.I think I missed the part when laws were actually passed about these types of things. Really stupid from so many angles.
One of the most prolific works on World War 2 that I ever read was Liddell Hart’s History of the Second World War – in one of my undergraduate history classes. You might truly enjoy…
Thanks for the suggestion I added it to my list at Amazon!
If you enjoy reading that period – a cool wrap up is Endgame 1945, perhaps. By David Stafford. Less pedantic style than Hart. Covers the silent battles, erupting civil wars and continuing insurgencies on the European continent for the months following VE Day. Some aha moments Interesting contrast of how it was handled vs post- Saddam Iraq.
The post yesterday?
If you have a company blog do you promote your company or the competition.The reason for this is that you have a host of people that have either a) Grown up with the Internet where things are free and easily obtained or b) Grown up without the Internet but feel the general mood is always one of getting noticed and/or getting patted on the back for calling something out. No matter how ridiculous the matter. This also dovetails with the rise of politically correct behavior and zero tolerance for any errors even if done in the past. That is where we are out. So why should ‘they’ leave Fred out?This blog is a big part of Fred’s persona and as such I think he does take it personally.This just proves the point I always make about ’emotion’ and decision making and in particular selling and negotiating. People here can all make all sorts of great (they think) comments on Fred’s blog knowledgeable and informative taking time from their day to do so which keeps people coming back to the blog.. What does Fred do? He replies to some anon who makes a funny comment calling him out and then writes a blog post to further reinforce that person’s behavior!!
I will add the third most important thing: Everybody thinks “I am equal!!”No you are not.Sorry I am just a peon commenting on this blog. The nasty term is whale shit.I can have my opinion but those are like assholes everyone has one and they always stink.So you don’t like? Start your own blog and realize that when you comment here you are in the peanut gallery.
It has so much power because Fred pulled up the kimono on VC’s entrepreneur second practise for several years.
the more “whining and moaning” (which is not how i see it) the better. antifragile.
Exactly. “Pay no attention to what the critics say, no one ever built a statue in the critics’ honor” ~ Sibelius…the violin guy
The Heifetz performance of the Sibelius concerto, with Hendl conducting, is one of my favorite pieces of music:https://www.youtube.com/wat…Note: There are three movements and in this recording with unusually long pauses between them.Ah, maybe the music is about maniacal, dwarf gnomes running through the snow and forests of Norway!!! Naw, at most only in part!!! :-)!Other Heifetz performances I like — Bach Chaconne, concertos of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Bruch, Tchaikovsky, the Bruch Scottish Fantasy.There was a remark: “Critics are the words without the music.”.
Thanks for the link. Nothing like a post market soul massage on a Friday!Also thanks for the list. I will choose some to download
something we agree on.
Or, in other words – the disclosure honks can go pound sand, get off their lazy butts and access the tons of publicly available information on USV’s holdings.I think it’s right that he mention when he has a position, as a courtesy, but no more.
Indeed. The moment I read the AirBnB post, I thought the disclosure police would reign in and ducked for cover. 🙂 Way too many people take things waaaay to seriously.
My God Fred’s policing so-called friends, why are you wasting time looking at Fred when there are honest to God folks in Trumps’ swamp who are really bad actors? Have you read Forbes recent articles about Wilbur Ross as a grifter? Or the pieces in the New Yorker a year ago about how Carl Icahn almost certainly broke the law in his dual roles within the Administration? This is often a problem with certain policing types- they lack nuance in their frenzy to be vigilant. They end up missing the truly bad actors. Everybody ends up getting more uptight and the bad guys keep doing horrible stuff to the rest of us.
Agreed. Especially all those Hillary-friendly lawyers spending millions trying to prosecute Trump for something that is not even a crime if it were true. Those (now former) FBI agents who lied to judges to get FISA warrants to spy based on false information. The Democrat congresswoman who advocated for violence against her opponents. The DNC chairwoman who rigged elections against Bernie Sanders. Yes, there are some really bad actors that seen to slide right out from under the microscope.
Well put, onward, and thank you for your blog!
Don’t do anything different Fred. My favourite blog by far. The tonality is what makes it so good. Learnt so much from your observations. David
I find your posts super-valuable and laden with integrity. No need to apologise or explain, but can understand why you might feel you need to – back to that integrity again!
To carry it one step forward, I am sure Fred has investments in the stock market, in other funds, maybe in a hedge fund or two. Just because he does doesn’t mean he’s calling the shots. When we were looking at conflicts for a board I was on every one realized that most of the board members had so many conflicts it was impossible to find someone that wasn’t conflicted that would be a good board member. So, you are transparent about it and work with it.It’s important to note even if Fred sits on the board of a company, he isn’t executing the business. He’s on the sideline coaching and cheerleading. He is also but one board member in a cadre of board members.I don’t come to this blog to see if Fred is making a mistake. Personally, if I was an investor in his fund I’d be pretty pissed off if he didn’t talk his book. One thing I have learned in the VC business is you never tell someone that their dog can’t hunt.In the US we have gone overboard on a lot of the “conflicts” thing. It’s gotten so bad that very qualified people that love their country cannot serve their country because of the gauntlet they have to run to disclose conflicts. If you can tie actions to clear advantage like MichaelMadigan.com raising property taxes in IL and then operating a law business to appeal property taxes to judges that he has had a hand in picking it’s worth pointing out.
You’ve always been very honest and clear about [conflicts]. And that’s coming from a troll. I would literally ignore anyone that suggests otherwise b/c they’re just wrong.
This has always been the case with AVC but considering the weird/divisive period we’re in well worth re stating. You write well on that bench!
There really is only one solution. You’ll have to retire and take up blogging about coffee swirls, or cloud formations.Or, might there just be a tech solution to this thorniest of all our world issues? A tool that allows for the creation of an index list (in this case an index list of your investments) and when you type a name in one of your blog posts that’s on the list it shows up in the post text in a particular font or colour. So long as the list is kept up to date there will be absolute clarity about your interest. Crisis over. Close call though. Next time dude…
Dead on Fred. I read your posts in exactly the spirt you describe. I knew from your history that you/AVC were not investors, no need to state the obvious; the AirBnb comment was your personal viewpoint. Keep going exactly as you state. Thanks
Today’s blog makes me so sad/angry. I work in the Broadway community, I don’t remember how I found you, and I can’t tell you how many times I have added to conversations because of what I have read and learned from your daily posts. I have discovered a wine salon, new restaurants, and a kickstarter because of you! To the disclosure police: Didn’t your momma ever say, Keep your opinions to yourself, or If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it? Well, now I have. I’m sorry Fred felt he had to waste his morning on you. Don’t waste our Fred. Okay, I’m off to the Pretty Woman opening!
“Keep your opinions to yourself” – then we’re all off the air. life is a state of opinion.
Okay, I’ll take those words out. 😉
Some people just like to bitch. I am very appreciative of your blog, even when I don’t agree.You are consistent and speak your truth.This is the most professional, respectful crowd online anywhere. Thanks.
Can we retire your truth?Your beliefs, views, principles – all good words.Words meaning nothing is a major issue these days.
I wish I could retire it, but way too much stuff here and everywhere is depicted as true and or factual, when in my view it is opinion. I accept that this happens and I ain’t gonna change it.
Here’s my stance on this subject:https://www.youtube.com/wat…
Fred, how about just adding a dedicated “disclosures” page/post to your blog? Then you can simply place a “disclosure” link below each post or add to your footer and inquisitive readers are welcome to read it and you don’t have to explain things in every post. This can be easily updated over time. Most bloggers follow this method to disclose affiliate relationships.
Your daily email (and it casual non-lawyer tone) is a highlight of my busy day, an oasis of calm in the chaos. It is also very useful. Your disclosure’s are spot on Fred. Keep it up.
You do it right. And occasional introspection about ways to be better is always an investment worth making.
Hi Fred:I appreciate you raising this topic, but t has never occurred to me that you have ever written anything inappropriate with your blog posts, and I enjoy reading them. I’ve learned a lot, thanks.I assume that if you write about a venture funded company you are likely an investor (or have ties to their investors). I assume if you use disqus, it is probably a portfolio company, and whatever platform you write this on is as well. I don’t mean that as a criticism, and as such I’ve never felt misled by you.I think your current method of disclosure works fine. I prefer that to the legal argle-bargle phrasing others use. Conversational works; please keep the conversation going.
Thanks for keeping it real. Keep doing what you are doing.
For what it’s worth, your in formal style as working very well for me. I have felt clear that you are writing about things close to your heart, whether personally invested financially, or otherwise. Thank you for your efforts.Typos left intact above, as poetic reply.
Last I worked in equity research we had to append three pages of disclosures to a one page note. It was absurd. We tried to make the font smaller but the same “police” said no we had to keep it big so people could read it. Seriously.If you speak your own truth there are always embedded biases – whether you have a financial interest or not. It’s silly to think otherwise. And in the end what the disclosure police want to do is practically impossible. Sure I might know what I have financial interest in, probably also my wife. But not my father-in-law, my cousins or my business partners.You’d think one blanket disclosure would be enough – everything written here represents my own thoughts and opinions on a wide variety of topics including some in which I (or my firm) have a beneficial interest. Think for yourself.
“I don’t have an editor or any review process. I will hit publish in a minute and the post will go live.” I have to say I’m slightly in awe of your process given the quality that comes out of it. The clarity of this post being the latest example.
Don’t ever stop blogging Fred! The value your blogging brings to founders is a very strong “signal” for us. Your occasional nit, that you are called out on by a bunch of “nit pickers”, is just a bunch of noise, that lack focus on the big picture topics you are teaching. No explaining necessary…put your energy into those subjects that truly matter as you mostly do.
Fred, your blog is by far my favorite and the only blog I read on a daily basis. I’ve always seen your disclosures as forthcoming, generous and fitting to your casual writing style. Keep up the excellent content and thanks for all the wisdom you share!
Fred, I have start-up called Lawyerly which will solve this problem. Our patented AI will automatically scan your blog posts and insert a 500-2000 word disclaimer in 72pt Calibri – bolded and red – after any word or phrase that could be taken as even remotely conflicting by those who have nothing better to do with their lives than point these things out.This may slightly interrupt the flow of your piece but it’s guaranteed to satisfy even the most persnickety disclosure police, constable, or gendarme. We’re looking for a $10M seed investment at a $5Bn valuation – pre-money. If you are interested I’ll send you the wiring info for our Cayman Island bank.
Fred, – your charter your rules.I and many others appreciate not only that you write every day but that you go above and beyond in terms of openness and honesty. Even if you are giving an opinion that can be self beneficial, you have such a track record for both honesty and sincerity that most of us know where you’re coming from and how to read things. In any event, I for one value what you’re putting out there more than I’m concerned about you having some stake in the subject and in terms of disclosure, as I said, you go above and beyond.Of course we all have our biases and we all read this blog through our own colored glasses and for the few who are going to nit pick either rightly or as it appears more frequently wrongly, they’re not worth worrying about.
[Unrelated] Reflecting on the passing of the ‘Queen of Soul’ this morning. She gave so much of herself.The “bar with friends” analogy is great! Just tell us where and when. We’ll buy the first round. You give a lot of yourself in these posts. That’s what really matters.
I have always felt like Fred only invests in things he believes in – so what we see in this blog is his genuine belief regardless of investment. I have never doubted his integrity.
.Disclosure of ownership as it relates to discussing info pertinent to private companies is totally irrelevant as there is no unfair trading advantage conveyed because the ownership does not trade.That is the end of the story. Freddie has absolutely no obligations to anybody. People who suggest he does are conflating public company standards which simply do not apply.Public companies – such as Etsy whereat Freddie is the Chairman of the Board of Directors – are a completely different matter, but even then the standard is anchored in the notion of “material, non-public information” and the truthfulness of any such utterances.Elon Musk is about to get a double strand barbed wire enema for his imprudent Tweets about taking Tesla private at $420/sh and the nonsense that it was “fully committed.”What he did may be considered “touting” which the US SEC frowns on. I expect him to be dealt with harshly as they don’t like him.As to Freddie – no harm, no foul, no contest. Play on.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
I agree with you. But isn’t it possible that a heavily paid set of lawyers could argue that Twitter is not a venue which is used for disclosure and as such any statement on twitter could not be taken as a violation of anything?Stay with me on this. Couldn’t it simply be termed a statement made in jest and excitement?For example if before the court I would say to the jury: ‘and if Elon Musk was in a skit on SNL and said the same thing would you think any law had been violated?’. Where is the evidence that statements made in the venue of twitter (and in particular by Elon Musk on twitter) rise to the level of total seriousness and not just shuck jiving?After all the court could be made aware of similar things that non other than the President of the US has done.Further the figure of $420 is suspect. You know 420.The fact that people traded on the information (and drove up the stock price) is not entirely relevant either. People used to trade based on a few words that Alan Greenspan (hey remember how big a deal he was until he wasn’t) said.Anyway. Not saying anything more than ‘leg to stand on’.”touting” which the US SEC frowns onFinally remember that Musk is a entrepreneur. And according the the code the only thing that matters is the ‘stick’. Frown upon. But is there an actual stick or just a nasty letter? (Question, not a statement as always).
.The problem with Musk is that he is an “insider” and securities law, Reg FD, is brutal to insiders on the issue of material non-public information and the legal concept of “wide dissemination.”The proper channel is always an SEC Form 8K.He and the company will get a big fine.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
He and the company will get a big fine.That’s it? Ok let’s see how big that stick is. Define Big? The largest I can find is $14m. Not saying he won’t have other costs (legal, lawsuits etc.).What does a super bowl commercial cost? $5m? Will the fine be larger than that? Arbitrary number. But let’s see how they whack him and if he is able to knock down the number.That’s my point. What is the stick and how much does it hurt?Sure it’s not ideal but gotta admire (not a Musk fan btw) a guy who doesn’t follow rules. Jobs would be nowhere. You may not realize that there is a font called ‘sosumi’ which is ‘so sue me’.See:https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…Sure safe bet keep your mouth shut. Obviously. And he gets ‘1 strike’ more points could lose license etc.
You are a great source of knowledge and insight; thank you for offering an inspiring post each day. Do not feed the trolls!
Keep up the good work Fred. Haters always gonna hate, no matter what.Btw, I’m amazed how you often put up with non-sensical attacks on you and/or your business- but maybe you’re that cagey and know it’s great entertainment value!
And on the rare occasion you do blow a gasket and take the perpetrator out behind the woodshed- that’s great entertainment too.
Yea, but we haven’t heard any more about how great it would be to take some mechanical toys for grade school boys and, in the politically correct name of the current, yet another absurd, fad of “gender neutrality”, pressure grade school girls to play with those toys with the grade school boys. :-)The girls will have to be really forgiving, smile a lot to get through it, be totally shown up by the boys, get dominated by the boys, and basically just observe.Uh, in grade school, I would not have objected!!!! :-)!! In my grade school, the boys and girls were strongly separated. The girls were REALLY cute — lots of flowers, puff sleeves, ruffles, bows, etc.! To get both (A) to play with some fun mechanical toys and (B) with the girls would have been GREAT!!The boys I was with would have joined me in clearing a race track around the school room and racing the radio controlled cars — the girls could have been cheerleaders!!!!! Terrific!!!”Sweetheart, let me help you. You have the battery in backwards. See the little + and – marks on the metal? The flat end of the battery goes with the – and the end with the little central bump goes with the +. And you’ve got some string tangled up in the Ackerman steering; let me help you with that.” And maybe get to steal a kiss, walk her home after school, …! :-)!!!
You and Matt Levine are my fave newsletters, and it has to do with the personality that comes out in both of your writing. Keep at it
Respect. For her person and her voice.
Fair enough. )
Well stated! Anyone who has been actively following your blog would totally agree.