I keep little things that remind me of events over my career in venture capital. And I have been doing that for most of those thirty plus years. I keep them on a bookshelf I have in my office at USV.

It started with the lucite “tombstones” that bankers would make up when a deal closed. I started collecting them in the late 80s and had them on my bookshelf until recently. I finally got rid of them. Over time, I moved onto more interesting things and started putting them on the bookshelf.

I moved offices at USV this fall and I had to put my bookshelf back together. I did that on Saturday afternoon this past weekend.

The new configuration looks like this:

The third shelf has my collection of useless consumer electronic devices that were a big deal at one time. I have a Apple Newton there, a first generation Blackberry pager style device, and a whole lot more.

I have a bunch of family photos and things my kids made for me over the years. The peace sign painting on the left of the third shelf was made by my daughter when she was ten. I love it.

I put my old Mac desktop on the right corner of the second shelf. I plan to put some digital art on there but have not yet gotten to that.

It took me about three and a half hours to put everything back on the bookshelf on saturday. I had to wipe stuff down to get the dust off. Dusting off memories, literally.

There are a few gems that I had forgotten about. The lighter that Jerry and Dan brought back from Beijing when they did the diligence on in the late 90s. The matchbox Porsches that Mark Pincus sent me when we exited Freeloader. The “move to NYC” booklet that Rob Kalin made to convince engineers to leave Silicon Valley and move to the greatest city in the world and work for Etsy. The Dick Costolo mask (partially hidden on the upper left) that the entire Feedburner board put on before he walked back in for exec session. I chuckle every time I look at that one.

I have a ton of stuff that did not make the cut this time. Including all of the lucites. I can’t throw them out so they will collect dust in a closet somewhere and drive the Gotham Gal crazy.

Memories are important. A career of memories is a blessing. And I like to live with mine. It reminds me why I do this work and why I love it so much.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    Splendid.Is that your dot bust triage cardiograph?

    1. fredwilson

      Not sure which item you are talking about. Probably the SoundCloud waveform. That is a holiday greeting from SoundCloud

      1. jason wright

        Ah, so that’s what it is, a waveform. Yes, the red thing that looks like an earthquake’s seismograph reading, or Bitcoin’s price chart.

  2. William Mougayar

    I need to do something like that. One day.Your mementos are eclectic, but share a common thread: entrepreneurs and their companies.

  3. sigmaalgebra

    Some years ago, from whatever sources, I formulated that in a marriage it would help a lot to collect, be aware of, past activities, accomplishments, memories, and traditions that the couple liked a lot, didn’t want to lose, couldn’t get anywhere else, and would bind them together. E.g., traditions can help because they repeat and, thus, promise good things in the future; with the uncertainties in the world, knowing that something good is on the way, e.g., a big time at Thanksgiving, can help.

    1. fredwilson

      I agree

  4. Tom Labus

    What a run!!. Is there any one period when you were most fired up about prospects for your portfolio?

    1. fredwilson

      Right now

    2. kenberger

      (c’mon, it’s like inviting him to say his best days are behind him 😉 )

      1. Tom Labus

        No way.

  5. Thierry Ascarez

    Love it, it feels like you want to sit there!

  6. Jim Grey

    I’m a sentimental sort and do like mementos. I used to keep all sorts of things. And then I went through a tough time in my life where I had to pare down my stuff to the essentials. My work mementos now consist of just a few key items. The common thread among them all is that they remind me of great people with whom I accomplished truly remarkable things.

  7. kidmercury

    Def siding with Gotham gal in this beef. Just take a picture and have some photos app automatically surface it as a memory periodically. Boom done

    1. Richard

      Fred’s book shelf if proof that the digital era 1980+ just doesn’t measure up to power of the memorabilia of the 1880-1980s. There is a intangible about many companies today that is missing, not withstanding the modern meme of every company and product today claiming to be a justice warrior.

  8. mikenolan99

    I miss knick knacks. We moved to our 1,100 sq/ft condo and sold the big house. I’ve sold most of my companies, and have a flex office at my new gig. No room for the knicks or the knacks.I’m closing on my last commercial property, where I had all my crap stored in the basement. 25 years of files, photos, and stuff. All gone now… The hardest to part with were my Dod’s correspondence file. I ended up scanning most of them, but it isn’t the same.When we made the big move a few years ago, we gave away everything in the house. My neighbor took the contents for the church rummage sale. I had six shovels – though I don’t recall ever having to dig six simultaneous holes.

    1. LE

      Get a storage unit and put everything there. I did that when I moved out of one office and into another office.Instead of having the stress of deciding what to keep and what to throw out I just kept pretty much everything and put it in storage. Can was kicked down the road.I have a 1000 sf office currently and it’s now filled with things in addition to the storage unit which costs me almost $200 per month (when I first rented it it was under $80 per month but they predictably raise it every year great business). When I moved into the office I was so proud of how clean and empty it was.One reason I don’t throw out business info is that I have found in the past that the move info I have the easier it is to win battles. So the person with the most complete info is on top because others don’t have backup.

  9. Chimpwithcans

    What a great post.You need some printouts of your most memorable blog comments up there 🙂

  10. Pointsandfigures

    Had a Newton in the pit and programmed it to keep track of my position. Worked for a while until it didn’t. What a cool whiz bang device that didn’t do anything….

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Ha! I had a Newton too. Not sure what happened to it. I still have my Apple IIe though. And my Palm Pilot.

  11. Pointsandfigures

    Where is your NY Knicks championship memorabilia? Oh, wait….

    1. fredwilson


    2. jason wright

      ouch, but still funny.

  12. awaldstein

    Thanks Fred!I moved recently and in my home office did something somewhat analogous.Great share.

  13. Jeff Hohner

    I love this Fred. My wife calls me a pack rat – I have many mementos from the past including first pay stubs, school notes (all levels), special gifts, albums and knick knacks galore. I do like the idea of taking photos of everything and purging, but I find it very hard to let the physical items go. I know it must come – hearing others go through this does give me some comfort though. I love your hardware collection – yes, I have every phone ever owned as well :).

  14. iggyfanlo

    I always loved this quote from 2013; and while it’s not perfectly applicable it jumped to my mind when I read your post:Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

    1. JLM

      .Well played.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  15. Mike Zamansky

    I think about this all the time or rather, my set of office trinkets evoke memories just as Proust’s madeleines do.Wrote up some thoughts a couple of months ago:

  16. Donna Brewington White

    Timely topic for me. As we evacuated last week due to fires, with limited time to decide and almost no extra space in the cars, it was interesting to see what mementos my older teens felt they needed to take. Almost none. For future reference, will need to query my kids away at college and have those things set aside.My husband and I have done this before. Easily, the most important possessions in the moment were old photos and negatives not saved to the cloud. The only things I regretted deciding to leave behind were a tub of our kids’ baby clothes and toys and a few Christmas tree ornaments.As it turns out, we are among the fortunate ones who will be able to return home, eventually. Yet, very bittersweet, since friends, including some of our closest, as well as neighbors and many others will not.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      I had an electrical fire in my house once. I put the cats in cat carriers then I loaded all my computers, hard drives and cameras into the car (I need these to work). Then all my business outfits from my closet — because if the house was going to go down, I needed to have business clothes to work. I did this all in about five minutes with the help of my son, all before the fire truck arrived. I thought about going back for the photo albums but since most were scanned, I didn’t take the chance of going back in.So sorry you had to leave and that others are facing such unfortunate circumstances. It’s amazing how resilient we human beings are in such times. But it’s also so sad to face such loss.

      1. Lawrence Brass

        cats first! 🙂

      2. LE

        In addition to obviously offsite and in some cases cloud backups it’s a good idea to pay a bit more and buy IOSAFE hard drives which can withstand a fire. So what you do is do your onsite backups to the IOSAFE. You can use Time Machine or just clone a drive. Very simple to do. The drives are more expensive but both water and fire resistant.This is the model you want to buy (anything more is probably overkill for most situations):…Another option if you are using a desktop is to simply use the IOSAFE as the boot drive and perhaps another IOSAFE as a backup of that. Simple to do.Yes this costs money but it is also peace of mind.

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          Oh, yes, I know. I used to own a computer networking company that implemented those systems. I have off-site backups and cloud backups. But since I had time, I grabbed the computer equipment anyway. In the long run it saved me a lot of time and hassles. I couldn’t move back into my house for almost two weeks and one of my clients offered me a desk at their offices so I just drove over there, carried in all my computers and drives and was back to work the next day.

          1. LE

            Thanks for clarifying.A point that I want to make again to be clear (for others) is that if someone clones their disks (regularly) then they can simply take those disks and boot from another computer of the same or similar model (under for example Mac OSX). And they will have their exact desktop and files (current as of the last cloning). This is different from a backup which requires actual restoration to a hard drive. It’s like having the hard drive in your existing box but w/o removing it physically.This is super valuable. For example I travel with both a laptop (or two) plus exact encrypted clones of the disks of a few machines. As such I can then take that disk and boot from someone elses machine. (Wife or random stranger). With the size of portable SSD media ((half the size of an iphone) I can put that SSD backup almost anywhere. So let’s say I am out for the day traveling around. There is some emergency where I need my machine but for practical reasons I don’t have it (maybe I don’t want it stolen from a rental car or whatever). But I have the small SSD in my pocket (or my wife’s pocketbook). So I can then find a laptop and boot up and I have everything ready to go. [1] And yes I also have things in the cloud but to access the cloud it’s safer from your machine then someone elses machine. The clone SSD is your machine.So my point is if I have these disks then I don’t have to grab anything (if I can’t) I have what I need and can use it on another similar machine (a wide range not specifically what I created it on).Computer networking company – Nice I didn’t know you did that or had forgotten.[1] Forgetting whether I need to do this the lessening of anxiety makes it worth it to do so.

    2. fredwilson

      I am happy to hear that your house will be spared. What a horrible situation it appears to be out there right now

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Thank you, Fred. It’s bad. Although, some of the best in human nature also seen during times like this.Enjoyed seeing and reading about your mementos. Great collection.

    3. Tom Labus

      Be safe.

    4. LE

      I was actually doing some research over the last few days on the fire so I pulled up your home address and was going to say something about where you lived this morning. Don’t want to give away any info but it’s ‘near the park’ right? (And some temple?)The only reason I didn’t write it the other day was I didn’t want to violate your privacy in any way and I couldn’t pull up your current email to verify before saying something.Interesting thing about the name of the town you live in (your postal address). It is where a company that I dealt with in the 80’s that made RC Model Helicopters was located. So it has 100% ‘secondary meaning’ for me in a positive way. Also I have been to Pepperdine (where you went). Finally my current wife’s parents were planning to move to that town in the 80’s (obv. before I met her). Pepperdine is probably the nicest campus anywhere at least that I have seen.Hope this works out ok for you. Sorry to hear about this.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Thank you, LE. Also, appreciate your sensitivity and concern for privacy.About 5 miles away from a temple. Within easy hiking distance of Malibu Creek State Park and two smaller historic parks, lesser known outside the area.

    5. JLM

      .Be safe. Good karma coming your way. God bless.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    6. CJ

      I’m glad you were able to return home Donna – sad for your neighbors and friends.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Thank you, CJ. We are still waiting to learn when we can actually live in our house. Estimate is 2 – 3 weeks due to downed power lines, etc. Hopefully, we will be allowed to at least see it today. Tried yesterday.Beyond grateful that we were spared. Meanwhile, a vagabond adventure.

  17. DJL

    It was a cold and rainy weekend in Houston and I found myself rummaging through stuff. I have a set of photos and tickets with my Dad from: Masters (last time Jack played), NBA Championship (Pistons win), World Series (Tigers win), NHL Finals (Red Wings lose), and Super Bowl (Patriots win and Tom Petty rocks half-time). We are missing the Derby and Indy 500.No IPO’s or Exits (yet) – but a bunch of great memories.

  18. Semil Shah

    loved this post. did you move out of the bldg entirely or just a new office in the same bldg?

    1. fredwilson

      Same floor .Rebecca and I swapped offices

  19. Lawrence Brass

    At this point in time, your avatar (the original) is also a store of value. :)It looks nice crowning the collection.

  20. meredithcollinz

    Love it. It’s amazing how many meaningful moments you can forget just by living your life each day. I would imagine those mementos bring the meaning back each time you go through them – even the ones relegated to the closet. ;~))

  21. LE

    LED’s in that office or incandescents? The reflection does not look like LED!

  22. LE

    I am a big big collector of things and saver. Some would call it ‘hoarding’. I just love to be able to look back. I am sorry I didn’t save more things. I wish I had more pictures. And other objects of importance.My mom threw away almost all of my negatives in books from my basement darkroom when I moved out of the house. Only a few survived. I have no clue what she was thinking or why she got rid of those negatives. That had really a big impact on my life and my thinking. Then my first wife threw out videos from the 80’s that I had which had other girls in them (one I was engaged to). These were videos taken on trips with the very first Panasonic Camcorder (very large). That was devastating to me. I could have easily edited out the other women. She just threw them out.That said a few things are different now.Mementos [1] are probably less important because of the following factors:a) The smartphone. You can take and document all parts of your life to look back. Hence actual objects (which take up room) are for sure less important. You can easily make backups for ‘the negatives’.b) Social media. Part of the reason for momentos is for both for you and for others. It’s the party in your brain and not what people think but what you think they think (which of course they might think but probably not). Hence having things in your office is a way of showing off your accomplishments. And for your own reminder and enjoyment. But just like linkedin let’s you brag so does social media for many people. [2]For your office (not that you would ever do this but I would) it would be interesting to install a few hidden cameras and leave people alone in the office prior to entering. Then see if they look at things and if they are curious. I think you can tell a great deal (on one axis) about a person who gets up and looks around (and then maybe asks questions) and one who just sits there and waits. My guess is that there would be some correlation between those who look and explore (with the ‘risk’) and those that just sit waiting or on the smartphone.[1] As opposed to Mentos the fizzy stuff that explodes.[2] Isn’t it obvious that that is the appeal of Facebook? It’s acceptable bragging. People (last I checked) post thing that make them look happy and have happy lives and great families. There really isn’t much to compare with the way it used to be. You couldn’t do that in the past. And certainly not to a wide amount of people and not in a way that constantly was so in everyone’s face. Ditto for linkedin, twitter, snapchat, instagram, blogs and prior to all of that websites.

    1. Girish Mehta

      “You wouldn’t worry what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do” – Olin Miller.

  23. LE

    Seth Godin makes the shelf with a rare Purple Cow milk carton!Does anyone think that printing and great graphics aren’t important for marketing?https://uploads.disquscdn.c……

  24. JamesHRH

    How does ‘ #occupy ‘ relate to VC?Just curious.

    1. LE

      To wit:things that remind me of events over my career in venture capitalWuz like a Rorschach test your comment!

    2. jason wright

      Voyeur Capitalism.

  25. LE

    Note the fading pictures. One appears to be Fred and Joanne from way back.Did you ever wonder why photos or printing fades like that? I did (in the 80’s) and remember way back getting a job to print lawn signs for a security company. Actually my idea. Was for my father in law’s alarm monitoring business. [1] End research (done with a library) at the time said to use blue because that color (along with a few others) lasts longest in the sun. That is one reason why posters in windows often fade (you see these at dry cleaners and other old school retail).The lawn signs greatly increased his business. An example of gorilla marketing.https://www.sciencedirect.c…[1] Also where I was exposed to the power of businesses that operate on residuals that later pushed me in that direction…. https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  26. daryn

    Love it. My wife tries to keep it in check, but I have a “technology museum” box of old cameras, phones, pdas, and gadgets; a box of lots of old hard drives that I’m sure I’ve consolidated several times over the years, but just in case; and another box of random tchotchkes that would have been tossed in the first year or two, but now have enough nostalgic value to keep around.I think I’ve got your old Nexus One somewhere if you want it back 🙂

  27. Officiant

    I advise my kids to keep a journal of all the people that they meet and HOW they met them. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked at old address books and I don’t recognize the names anymore.

  28. Amar

    That rocket in the bottom shelf – do you have a Tintin fan in the house? I have passed on the love for Tintin to my girls as well – Explorers on the Moon is a good one!

    1. fredwilson


      1. Amar

        Does not get better than that 🙂 Asterix and Obelix?

  29. TMcGovern

    ha, looks like an HP 12C on the antique electronics shelf. I can not bear to get rid of mine..

    1. fredwilson

      Yes. I just retired mine this past weekend. Decided it was now a relic

  30. Sundar Subramanian

    This is great to see. I am going to now start this habit as a nice way to look back and be thankful.

  31. Stephen Bradley

    I love that you shared this. Thank you.

  32. Stephen Bradley

    Looks like your own personal Internet-of-Things.

  33. JLM

    .Condolences on your loss. Godspeed and God bless.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  34. creative group

    JLM:Everyone at this location send their sincerest thank you.creative groupSE/hpNO TAGLINE! (From Principle)

  35. Vitor Conceicao

    A little late, but loved the Destination Moon Rocket. Made me wonder what connection it has with your VC deals.

  36. Jeffrey Warshauer

    How about a bag of concert tickets?