Why Trust Matters

Dani and Nick and the rest of the USV team worked on a talk about “Why Trust Matters” that we presented at the recent USV CEO Summit. Dani published it on the USV blog yesterday.

It is a great deck. So I’m embedding it here so the AVC community can check it out.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Really quite good, a solid read with takeaway thoughts.I would however turned this entire thing upside down and have ‘community’ on Slide 1 not a first time mention on Slide 18 to end.How you build a brand is who that brand is, how deep the trust, and also how much premium economics the belief pays back.I would challenge the deck writers to think of success in brand building that is not community first in this era.The interesting thing is that community has evolved into a more atomic structure in the last decade and that mechanics makes the process more open, less centralized, and more dependent on narrative.Good stuff to start the day and I bet will crop up in every call today as it is now top of mind.For that I thank them for their thoughts and work on this.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      You’ve always been on the money when it comes to community.Understanding more where trust comes from, how relationships are built in a genuine and authentic manner – being authentic and genuine, is how you build trust with the masses. This is what the new breed of leaders and entrepreneurs will be, like Elon Musk, who doesn’t need to spend money on advertising to manipulate people with shallow ads – and shows his weaknesses on Twitter at times, hopefully to which he has support and will to continue to improve and strengthen from those experiences. Humans are storytellers, and we’re designed to listen and remember stories – the problem has been the dialogue has been shit and chaotic for a long time. Consumerism, negative pressures of capitalism, dis-ease progression, systems of indoctrination, complexes, and disconnect from each other is part of what has enabled us to reach this point – where we’re conditioned to not expect leaders of brands/organizations to have integrity, to be honest, transparent. Likewise people with less money have less choice and will be less likely to take into account actions of a company, its leadership, or those who profit from its success.This deck also doesn’t acknowledge that many people use or associate with brands purely for utility or cost (or for financial gain if they have vested interest – whether they tell you or not), and where trust isn’t part of their equation – trust will however be a factor for those who have integrity and are informed of the truth, the realities of competing brands/organizations.Also, the chart showing Bitcoin being a much more trusted brand than USD reeks of bias and indoctrination, delusion – a delusion which certainly is reenforced, maintained by the army of HODLers who exist in a bubble together.

      1. awaldstein

        Hey!This deck has a strong and intelligent point of view, from the investors as a thoughtful overview for their companies to adapt and change to suit their markets.In that respect, it is a positive that it creates thoughtful response and disagreement.Thoughtful and nuanced with bold opinions are my criteria for a good use of my time.

        1. JamesHRH

          I don’t think much thought went into this.Its an excuse to put Unstoppable next to Ethereum.

          1. awaldstein

            I am grateful for Fred’s generosity daily for sharing his thoughts.They are just that and drive me to think about things that I don’t see in my day from his quite astute point of view.I say thank you. You say BS.I get value and insight. You generate bile.Smart contracts btw in Ethereum, in NFTs, in other platforms are transformative cross more industries that I care to mention. Including very potentially energy where i am in a project, where I think your family is involved.I look for value and authenticity as filters and am better for it. I often find friendship as well.Lucky me. It’s all about attitude and what you want.

          2. JamesHRH

            Gratitude is great. Low standards are not.There just isn’t much thinking in this deck.

  2. cavepainting

    This is a great deck. Simple, compelling, and flowed extraordinarily well.”Your trust gap is my opportunity” -> Very true but important to be precise about the promise and expectation in the minds of the user. Does perception of broken trust meet the threshold to switch to an alternative solution? Not until the alternative provides comparable relative value on a dimension that truly matters to the user.In Facebook’s case, I would make the point that the main promise was to “stay connected to friends with minimal effort”. Being treated as a product may feel like trust is being broken but do enough people really care and did they even see it as a promise in the first place?

  3. William Mougayar

    Could they also publish a list of key references this deck was based on, because there is a lot of primary/secondary research around it?Second point is there is the concept of brand positioning which is related to brand trust. You start with your Brand Position and your earn trust around it. Sometimes, if you are pushing the wrong position, you may not be trusted for it, but you could be trusted for something else, so you need to change your position to align it with what’s trusted or work harder to earn trust for the position you want to occupy.

    1. awaldstein

      Liked this deck but didn’t feel any references were there or missing.Truth is that most data on brand value and trust value is not of much value–interesting at time, hardly conclusive, always flawed.

      1. William Mougayar

        They did a very good job condensing key elements of brand trust, but there is a lot of good reference material around this that could be surfaced. What I was asking is if they could list the best material they came across, as it would be helpful for companies wanting to take a deeper dive into this. This deck was a teaser into this topic.The devil is in the implementation of all of this, and there is a lot of good material out there. This isn’t all science; it’s part art and experienced know-how in building brands, so there is a second base layer of knowledge that is solid and exists out there.

  4. Mark Gavagan

    Fascinating. I’d love a book on this, delving deeply into a dozen or two case studies, using the trust framework.

  5. sigmaalgebra

    Okay: For my startup, I’ve wanted “trust”, yes, but only implicitly. But, okay, I just entered a note that I should pursue “trust” more explicitly AND have the users notice and value that. Okay.In a way it is curious that a VC firm would have a slide deck of more than a dozen slides just on one word, trust, when the usual advice to entrepreneurs is that slide decks that describe the whole company should be shorter than a dozen slides. Woe be the entrepreneur who sends a VC firm a slide deck that covers the whole company and inside that has more than a dozen slides just on trust! With such detail, we’re talking, what, a 100+ page slide deck? That sounds like a candidate for the bit bucket.Long ago I tried to see what VCs would be interested in: Attacking a big market, e.g., everyone with a smartphone or better? Advanced technology, original, proprietary, intellectual property, to make a better product and have a barrier to entry? Being “disruptive” of existing markets? Etc.Eventually by common sense, rejecting candidates, noting some relatively frank remarks, eventually I had to conclude that what VCs want is a product/service in a huge market with earnings significant and growing rapidly. If a good Web site, some technology, something disruptive, something innovative, trust, etc. is there and important, then let that all that show in the earnings significant and growing rapidly.It appeared that VCs are interested in results, earnings significant and growing rapidly in a huge market, and at most only indirectly in the means.So, even if I thought that trust was one of the key strategies of my startup, I’d be reluctant to include even one page, certainly not a dozen pages, about trust in a pitch deck! :-)Heck, on results, right, results are what it’s all about. But to get results, as far as I know, I can’t just grab them in the next 15 minutes and, instead, have to have various and sufficient means. So, between the start of a project and the results, an entrepreneur has to concentrate on the means. So, the means to the results are the daily work of a pre-funded entrepreneur. Then in a pitch deck, the entrepreneur is tempted to describe the means. Nope!!! Don’t do that!!! Instead, just wait for results and, then, describe those.

  6. Mike

    Thank you for sharing. Some useful insights around trust as fundamental to business. I think the topic of trust is very relevant to the recent crypto dicussions on this forum All very interesting. Trust will be key to the broader adoption of digital currencies and assets. For example, I don’t see a distinction between a currency and a stable currency. As a user when someone tells me something is a currency I expect it to be stable, I can trust the value it represents. The US dollar in my pocket is backed by the full faith and credit of the US goverment, which people across the globe trust. It used to be gold. Its not perfect, but pretty darn good as a stable store of value.I can see where digital assets, crypto currencies etc. will create huge opportunities and new use cases, but huge challenges as well. A digital asset can behave like a currency, a commodity or a security and anything in between. It seems like this is and will create trust issues with users and regulators as it sorts itself out.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I must say, seeing that Bitcoin was weighted higher on trust than USD in that one chart solidified my skepticism and trusting to *not* trust what’s coming out of USV – there doesn’t seem to be anyone doing reality checks, grounding their excitement from fantasy to reality. And I must add that crypto-“currencies” also do behave like Pyramid-Ponzi schemes – and to only mention the positives without contrasting with any negatives (unsurmountable in a few cases) is a disservice to everyone.

      1. Mike

        I can’t speak to the agenda of others but I do find the posts on this blog very thought provoking and helpful to stay informed on a range of topics.

  7. baba12

    Good timing to be discussing trust in the current times.Trust matters except when you are one of the companies like Wells Fargo, VW etc. Then no matter how badly you behave you are not going to be shut down, in fact the very rich folks(Buffet & company) will double down on you and somehow Trust is restored for them. It seems that “trust” has lost value & maybe to folks at USV it means something still but politically in society we don’t seem to value trust/integrity/character/ etc. I don’t see many examples of where trust has been lost & made it impossible to be resurrected without being able to be transparent completely thereafter.VW, Wells Fargo are examples where trust was lost yet they managed to not be shut down cuz enough rich people made sure it did not happen. Somewhere somehow trust in the system(business/government/society) in doing the right thing has been lost and I don’t know how it shall be restored overall.

    1. JLM

      .Opening fraudulent accounts is a firing offense, but did not subject the US banking system to any undue systemic risk.What happens within a bank should be disciplined by the bank. What threatens the banking system is the purview of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve.The system was never in jeopardy.WFB should be punished as they were. The CEO, on whose watch this happened, was canned.Investors are not “trustors.” Clients are “trustors.”An investor could have bought WFB shares on the bad news and it is not an indication of support for WFB’s bad acts. It is a signal that the investor believes the bank will return to playing within the rules and that the stock price will rebound.Shutting down WFB, which was not even remotely justified by the offense, would punish the entire banking system.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. baba12

        “Investors are not “trustors.” Clients are “trustors.”” Which then leads to question what is the values espoused by the many clients who still continue to do business with the likes of a WFB or VW. Seems to me that Trust is not necessarily a highly sought after value for the clients else they would not be doing business with such companies and therefore I would say that if doesn’t hurt the company in the long run do anything and everything to increase shareholder value since clients/customers don’t necessarily walk away.I think the value system has been eroded and possibly it does not matter much.

        1. JLM

          .I am a client of WFB. Have been for more than a quarter of a century. They have provided me with excellent service in their private wealth management department. Extraordinary service.I suppose one would consider me a loyal customer. One of the characteristics of a loyal customer is to forgive transgressions. In this instance, the transgression was not against me.I wrote a letter to John Stumpf, the Chairman at the time of the debacle. He wrote a thoughtful reply. Shortly thereafter he got canned.Stumpf was born on a dairy farm and was one of 11 children. Hard worker, but he paid the price.My son had a stint as an investment banker with WFB in their Charlotte operation. They sent him to an internal school that was the equivalent of an MBA without all the dopey courses. Good company to work for.I share all this with you to suggest that I was an informed observer of what happened. It was stupid. It was a mistake.They had enough goodwill to weather the storm in our relationship.I don’t feel the same about VW as I have no relationship.I am right this instant headed to WFB to conduct some business. They treat me very well.Loyal customers and relationships can withstand a hit. Trust and loyalty are not binary or shallow.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. baba12

            There you go sir. At a personal level a company has done right by you despite their shenanigans elsewhere. So as long as that relationship is good then you are able to sustain the relationship and be willing to look the other way. If they had done something that had caused you grief then depending on the severity of the act, you would have lost the trust and or the level of trust would have diminished.So maybe for you trust is a personal thing. Good to know that you are able to forgive and sustain the relationship though forgiving someone or an entity only can happen if they have personally been responsible for doing something that affected you, in your case WellsFargo did not do anything wrong with regards to your accounts with them.

  8. Tom Labus

    Trust has taken a pretty bad beating the last few years, It’s a tough topic to address without sounding like “1984”.

  9. Greg Kieser

    I like it but I don’t think the brands that have trust based on “values” are entirely accurate. For example, the stickiness of FB it would seem to derive from the dopamine rush people get from sharing things and liking things irrespective of belonging. It would seem the success of Nike has more to do with the company establishing the brand as a status symbol, not that it’s inspiring. The dedicated readership of nytimes seems to have more to do with that papers confirming readers biases about how the world works, than it does about truth (like every major media outlet).The “experience” based value companies seem a little more accurate as user experience is so very important to stickiness, as we all know. However i think the value of trust is overblown in the presentation and in general, except to get customers in the door. Once they’re hooked on the dopamine/confirmation bias/user experience you have customers for life, so long as you keep feeding it.These descriptions sound more like what those brands want prospective customers to believe they are getting – marketing speak more than anything.I’d love to hear how the team explained the presentation, though. Perhaps I’m being overly skeptical role of trust in these companies.

  10. Richard

    Trust only matters when you have something to lose. When you ain’t got nothing, you have nothing to lose.Your examples (bitcoin v dollar , Oscar c health insurance) simply have nothing to do with trust, branding and spin – yes, trust – nope.

    1. Mike

      I missed that chart. To say Bitcoin is more trusted than the US dollar is bold, if I am interpreting correctly.But it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be trusted enough to leverage the unique capabilities. It will need to make up the difference in user experience – digital, de-centralized etc.. I would swap the position of the two bubbles, for now.

      1. Richard

        I have a rule with graphs, if you don’t see label of Y axis with a countable metric (preferably log scale), toss it in the nearest receptacle.The trust spread between the dollar and bitcoin is beyond debate (Can you imagine having to work at USV ? How is it possible to get a consensus on this chart? In a cult yes, but in a venture capital firm? almost 50% of the currency of $ is spread throughout the world. From Afghanistan to Costs Rica if you have paper in your wallet that says US dollars, you move to the front of the line.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          I doubt there was much consensus taking, which to me is a sign that no one is running the show. And I can’t imagine being sucked into the indoctrination of USV with their gulping the crypto-“currency” kool-aid – with Kik now on the cutting block; https://news.ycombinator.co… – along with the http://defendcrypto.org campaign as another rally and lobbying push by the largest stakeholders in the army of HODLers.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Bold is being kind, it’s delusional – and as I said in another comment highlights the indoctrination of their own beliefs. To me it marks that they haphazardly make such a statement that shows what level their integrity is at – what standards they hold themselves to, however made that decision to stroke the egos of people they’re playing to with presenting a perspective that way.

    2. JamesHRH

      Mostly spin.

  11. Brandon Kessler

    Great deck!One point: on Slide 16, not sure many would put Bitcoin with all its fluctuations as more trusted than the USD.

  12. pointsnfigures

    Pretty great deck.As Simon Sinek said, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Brand says why. Disagree with Apple=Quality (maybe that’s a pivot for them) to me it always seemed to be “creativity”. And, being a Republican I certainly don’t see the NY Times as truth but I digress : )Love their question at the end.If you want to see a startup that is doing a great job with brand in the consumer products space, check out SimpleMills.com (I am a seed investor)

    1. JLM

      .In my lifetime the NYT has gone from being the “newspaper of record” to being a rag. It is truly unfortunate.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. JamesHRH

        Think of that: NYT= we are the record for Americans; what we print, is what happened.To today.Man.

      2. Girish Mehta

        Interesting that to set his paper apart from sensationalism, Ochs adopted the line “All the news that’s fit to print”…in 1896.Mainstream media is a lot about feeding confirmation bias and a sense of “identity” today.

        1. jason wright

          Yes, and almost the construction ‘identity’. You are what you think (which determines what you do), which is how the west has managed its populations for centuries, through church, state, and now media.

    2. JamesHRH

      Sinek is talking about getting people to follow you, not buy from you. Its not relevant to this, purported, disucssion of brands.Prof Christensen talks about jobs. What jobs do you do fo customers? Why you do it should be pretty obvious……

    3. Lawrence Brass

      Quality is actually an outcome of their creative process, it’s a consequence of Jobs’ “don’t sell junk” mantra, IMO.What people love is the experience.

  13. JLM

    .A discussion of “trust” with a breathless novelty as if it were just discovered falls into the category of “your generation didn’t invent sex or business” with a side of “read Drucker.”Trust, as a business concept, has been around for generations, centuries. The fact that it has to be articulated suggests something unhealthy as it is an essential oil for which there is no substitute to lubricate a winning organization.Nonetheless, there is value in the “spaced repetition training” aspect of reinforcing values within a living organism. That is basic leadership.What is missing is a “call to action.” Whenever you provide people with information, it must be followed with a basic statement as to how the information is to be utilized, otherwise it is just a travelogue.What is/was the call to action?The USD v BTC comparison is a case of reading your own press clippings. Not even close.Put your USV logo on each slide to build your own brand.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Richard

      In other words, “where are the customers yachts” ?

      1. JLM

        .Haha, good one.Good book from 2006 by Fred Schwed. I have a copy above me as I am typing this.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Richard

          Books original print was 1940!The VCs self anointed expertise is certainly expansive.

        2. Matt A. Myers

          Either of you boys care to share the name of the book for the lazy?Edit to add: Didn’t realize he was referencing the book title and not a quote from within the book…https://www.amazon.ca/Where… for the lazy.

    2. sigmaalgebra

      Wow.. Nicely done.

    3. Matt A. Myers

      I love this comment more than you do.

    4. JamesHRH

      I thought the brand promise of BlockChain was ‘TRUSTLESS’.

      1. Girish Mehta

        To be fair their proposition (wouldn’t call it a brand promise) is “Distributed Trust”….

        1. JamesHRH


    5. Rob Larson

      It’s an old truth, in need of repetition – to reach the new generation, and to remind the older generations.So much truth in the importance of establishing and keeping a brand promise. Widely underappreciated IMO.At ING Direct (remember the Orange savings accounts?) we had the brand promise of helping people save, being upfront with people, being a bank you could trust. You would be shocked at the fan mail we got from our customers. (who would think anyone could care so much about an online bank – but they did.) A bank that stood for something – how rare. We never offered a traditional credit card (despite the $ those can generate) because it would betray our brand promise around helping people save (vs cards that encourage spending and hit people with fees). Then when Capital One bought us (long complicated story, involving our parent company), customers went ballistic, because in their mind Capital One represented everything we were against. So many customers told me they closed their accounts because of the acquisition.If people can become passionate about the brand promise of their checking/savings account, they can become passionate about whatever your product is and its brand promise. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Pick a side. Stand for something. Tell everyone what you stand for in all of your communications. Then deliver on that promise. Over time, customers will pick up on it and you will attract loyal fans, those that resonate with your promise.

      1. JLM

        .Great story.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      2. JamesHRH

        Great attribute based marketing.

  14. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Love it. This is what I’ve been telling clients for a few years now. Everything can be reverse engineered except your relationship with your customer/user. I hadn’t put it in terms of trust, but of course that’s what it is!I’ll be sharing this deck a lot 🙂

  15. jason wright

    ‘Trust me, i’m human’.

  16. JamesHRH

    Pretty simplistic approach.

  17. Michael Elling

    Trust should be viewed as the opposite of risk. Yet the former can never be 100% and the latter can never be 0. Nowhere is there a mention of risk.