I once asked a famous celebrity chef how he made his pasta taste so good.

He answered “Butter. Lots of it.”

When we land in Paris, jet lagged and cranky, we head right to our favorite street cafe and order strong coffee, baguettes and butter. And our systems are restored.

Butter is one of my life’s treasures. I love it.

Butter is also something we look for in the products and services we invest in at USV.

My partner Nick coined the term Butter, at least inside of USV, and he wrote about Butter on his blog recently, explaining what it is and why we look for it.

I particularly like this part of his post:

On the consumer side, Butter means end-user experiences that are frictionless and joyful.  For example, I recently went to China and was blown away by the QR Code experience — straight butter wherever you go, linking the real world to the online world.  Duolingo is Butter for Learning.  Nurx is Butter for Health.  Coinbase is Butter for Crypto.  Amazon Prime is Butter for e-Commerce.


Nick provides some good guidelines on how you can make your product or service buttery in his post.

We look for buttery products and services to invest in because customers look for buttery products and services to use. It is really that simple.

So when you design and build your product or service, make it buttery. That will lead to all sorts of good things.

#entrepreneurship#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    That was a great post by Nick. Rang true at so many levels.But European butter is richer than American butter (more fat in it, hence more taste).

    1. sigmaalgebra

      European butter is commonly made from sour cream and, thus, has more taste. For being richer, it might also have a little less water, but not much less since there isn’t much water in the usual US butter.IIRC, in at least one dairy in Upstate NY can get “sour cream” butter.Back early in my career when I was doing surprisingly well financially, I used to take my wife to the French restaurant Rive Gauche at the SW corner of Wisconsin and M Street, and they served their French bread with sour cream butter in little curls in a bowl with some ice. For the curls, there is a little tool to make those by scraping over a stick of butter.US salt free butter can be a little closer in taste to sour cream butter than US butter with salt. Also salt free butter is more appropriate in dessert making.Of course, it would be possible just to buy cream, get it sour by some means, and do the churning to make sour cream butter. Maybe after 50 pounds of butter in trials, would get all the details of time, temperature, etc. right!Yes, in the US, refrigeration so that the cream didn’t go sour was considered a good thing!Similarly for cheese: The centuries of civilization in Europe, when the US was still just Native Americans, with lots of milk, cream, and butter, from cows, sheep, goats without refrigeration yielded, after no doubt huge wastes, some really good flavors, especially cheese! A tablespoon of freshly grated Pecorino Romano from Italy is one of the secrets to my recent successes in pizza! Just why the heck it appears that the best US imitations are closer to sawdust is a mystery to me!Similarly for wine: The US got Welch’s, both grape juice and jelly, which are good, instead of Chambertin, Pommard, Volney, Nuit St. George, Montrachet, Haut Medoc, Chianti, Barolo, etc.!

    2. awaldstein

      One of the richest and best medicinally is Tibetan Yak butter. Just discovered it. Used most often in Chinese Black Tea with Barley and believed to be the precursor to the idea behind Bulletproof Coffee.

      1. JLM

        .Tibetan Yak butter — when I go to Whole Foods it’s impossible for me to decide because there are so many different brands of Tibetan Yak butter to choose from.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. awaldstein

          Sorry, can’t help you.

        2. tgodin

          Get the Kirkland brand TYB at Costco. you won’t be disappointed.

      2. William Mougayar

        and you can find it in nyc? yes, i know about Bulletproof coffee. i’ve recently read his last book.

        1. awaldstein

          There is nothing you can’t get your hands on if you want it.If you understand the concept of BC you understand the concept of the tea.

  2. Pete Griffiths

    Hmmm.Marlon Brando found another use for it in Paris.

    1. Alex Alimanestianu

      True… but why?

      1. Pete Griffiths

        Too busy to go to the store?

    2. jason wright

      Cultural eponym? Insert apostrophe.

  3. Ron Shah

    Oh please! Nick didn’t coin “butter”!!! That was 100% Tribe Called Quest

    1. sigmaalgebra

      To me, that is NYC in a nutshell, a time when the “communication, interpretation of human experience, emotion” art somehow hits the center of the target of simple meaning. Have to respect such art if only from me it is tough to do.

      1. kenberger

        maybe more specifically Long Island (where I’m from), and even some south florida (where i’m headed this week; thought i heard the video mention Boca Raton?)

        1. sigmaalgebra

          The role of Long Island is more nuance than I got in my years in NYS. But I was on Long Island only a few times. Mostly I heard about Long Island from Betty Friedan, Network Analysis Corporation (early on played a role in internet technology), The Barefoot Contessa TV cooking show, a few movies, and James Simons.

    2. Sue

      +1! Thank you for bringing back the true origin story for this concept! #barbra

      1. kenberger

        We are about to see Madonna in Miami, so seems particularly apropos!

  4. pointsnfigures

    don’t put sand in the gears….. feel like the more Uber and Lyft iterate on their apps, the more sand there is in using them.

  5. sigmaalgebra

    I like butter, for lots of cooking, e.g., added to not very expensive cinnamon rolls! Should make my own cinnamon rolls! But usually I’m dieting. Still, I use butter when making an omelet. Currently I have in the refrigerator two packages of butter from Sam’s Club, now their house brand, about six pounds each.For information technology startups, sure, a user experience as good as the best warm cinnamon roll with some melting butter on top, or a big baked potato with a half a stick of butter with a one pound Porterhouse steak, or just the orange butter of the classic French dessert crepe suzette can pass the KFC test “finger lickin good”!So, yes, for my startup, I’m hoping to have such a good user experience.And generally the advice in some of the many columns of Paul Graham emphasize how important it is for a user to like, really LOVE the product/service.Still, I’m not totally sold on just butter as the only secret to success, the only secret sauce, etc. It appears that there is a LOT of success with no butter at all!E.g., Google seems to be somewhat successful, and their user interface is sparse and plain; the results are usually significantly frustrating from poor search results and a LOT of intrusive ads; commonly it takes some work and experience to get good results there. Some of the useful techniques seem to be secrets that have to learn by experimentation and discovery. Bummer. Not butter at all.E.g., usually in even the most successful information technology B2B — Intel, Cisco, AMD, Microsoft — butter, sugar, cinnamon, chocolate, orange juice, raspberries, caramel, etc. are in very short supply.I’ve not tried to make much use of Facebook, but I’ve never been able to make any sense at all of their user interface — to me it’s 99% a mystery, and click by click I have NO idea what the heck will happen next. I make nearly no use of Facebook.Currently it is very common for Web sites to have so much boiler plate content filling up the window area that the unique content is reduced to less than 10% of the height. In particular, there is a fad of having a banner at the top that tells me again what site I am at, a banner that comes and goes as I do I don’t know what the heck. That is JavaScript programming making a huge, frustrating MESS.Now commonly at a site, within 1/2 second, the whole window is give over to some popup that wants me to give them my e-mail address so that they can add to the spam in my e-mail inbox. To get rid of this popup I have interrupt my work (my current top hot button of frustration is interruptions in my work), reduce the browser window magnification, go to full screen, find the obscure ‘X’ to close the popup, restore the smaller window and the larger magnification, try to get around the rest of the popups, wasted window areas, and get to the content. BUMMER. Frequently my reaction is “This site is NOT worth this botheration” and have my Web browser just close the GD window. Then I can get a popup “Do you really want to?” to which sometimes my reaction is to use Task Manager just to KILL the Web browser process so that I don’t have to accept the insult of responding to that GD over paid, under performing, basement resident, non-English speaking, mouse following JavaScript programmer.Then there is the JavaScript MESS of following my mouse pointer and, then, responding with pop-ups that cover the content I’m trying to see. I 100% HATE that. That’s not butter but reeking sewage. Disqus does that, and I HATE it. Mostly with the mouse pointer I’m just trying to scroll the window; I’d be THRILLED if there were NO such mouse tracking and pop-ups.Another such pain in the back side is just getting a window to the top of the Z-order so that it can be the focus of mouse and keyboard input. In recent years that standard operation has gotten at least 10 times more work: I JUST want the change in the Z-order and do NOT want all the GD pop-ups, pull downs, new Web pages, JavaScript work, etc. So, just to change the Z-order I have to stop what I’m doing and get rid of the side effects like getting rid of flies on the ice cream at a picnic. FLY SWATTING user experience!!!!Also, I deeply, profoundly, bitterly hate and despise the Windows Key between the Ctrl and Alt keys: I NEVER want to use that key. Maybe 400 times a day that GD key covers my work when I hit it by mistake. Instead of that key, Crtl-Esc is JUST fine, and I went for decades with Crtl-Esc NEVER once hitting it by mistake. I HATE the GD Windows key.I liked Windows XP a lot and like Windows 7 more, not exactly butter and sugar or even butter but DARNED powerful.But Windows 10 is AWASH in popups that get triggered about 200 times a day from some keystroke mistakes — I STILL don’t know just what the heck bad keystroke combinations result in those popups, and I have NO idea about the utility of 90% of the absurd popup windows. Those Windows 10 nonsense popups are just very unwelcome interruptions in my work — I HATE them, and they are a reason I intend to return to Windows 7 and STAY there. Windows 10 came on a laptop I bought, but my server has Windows 7 and will continue to until I install Windows Server — AFAIK, I NEVER but NEVER, in 1000 years, want ANY of the stuff Windows 10 added to Windows 7 — NEVER. ALL of that stuff is just GD insects to be SWATTED down as they interrupt my work. An appropriate spray can of insect killer would be a good product!!!If Microsoft wants some butter, then they should write some good documentation for the work they have done.To me, there is no butter at all in anything mobile; I regard all mobile usage, especially the system management and costs, as nearly self-inflicted, unanesthetized, upper molar root canal procedures — OUCH!!! Yet Apple is worth $1+ T???More advice is to find a problem that a LOT of people want solved, or enough people and earnings per person, enough for a successful business. Then provide the first good or a much better solution. For more it helps to have high margins, say, over 90%. And it helps to have network effects, secret sauce, etc.I don’t see butter as the single key ingredient. E.g., there’s no butter at all in pizza, coffee, French bread, Chambertin, Chinese food, AFAIK Mexican food, pepperoni, Pecorino Romano cheese, and very little in part-skim Mozzarella, etc.

  6. JLM

    .KerryGold Irish butter.One’s life is not full until you have eaten Southern biscuits — good Southern biscuits in Savannah or Charleston or New Orleans — with KG and homemade marmalade.Do not leave this life having under lived your potential.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Help me on biscuits: Dad was a biscuit virtuoso, could knock out a batch of biscuits, very light and flaky, in about the same time as pouring milk over cereal!!! But he used baking powder, cut Crisco into the flour only roughly, i.e., to leave chunks to make flakes, used ice water for the water to help NOT melt the fat, and to keep the results light handled the dough a little as possible. The results were really good, especially with his gravy he made with Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey dinner.He learned at his mother’s knee, who made a pie a day and biscuits nearly as often, in West Valley, NY, a dairy farming area a little south of Buffalo — so his biscuits, and pie crust, were northern instead of southern.So, what is the fat used? Butter? Lard? Crisco?

      1. JLM

        .The key to great Southern biscuits is White Lily flour, frozen butter grated on an old fashioned metal grater, ice cold water, and a minimum of kneading, followed by a lot of folding–knead three times, fold the dough over to create a layer, turn 90 degrees, knead, repeat.The least amount of handling with your warm hands the better.Brush the tops with melted butter a minute before the biscuits leave the oven to brown them.The picture is from the Mansion in Savannah, Georgia, and is likely the first meal you will receive when you enter Heaven at the end of your honorable life.You are sitting in the dining room of a Civil War era mansion overlooking Forsyth Park and you are thinking good thoughts.They bring those biscuits hot. For a second you just sit there feeling grateful, smelling those biscuits, then your hunger takes over and you open those biscuits — they do not require a fork or a knife. They break open at your fingertips.Then, you butter them, marmalade them (homemade strawberry), you close your eyes, you bite that biscuit, it sits on the end of your tongue like Christmas morning, and you chew.You leap to your feet, begin to sing Halleluiah! (turns out you’re a great singer) and then you know that your life is complete.They are fine biscuits made according to the recipe above.You leave with a full belly and for the rest of that day, you are reluctant to foul your mouth by the introduction of any of the world’s lesser tastes.You want to move to Savannah.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…https://uploads.disquscdn.c

        1. sigmaalgebra

          THANKS.So, looks like no baking powder. Okay.Then there is the folding — that makes layers a little like in French puff pastry.A cheap version of layers is just flakes, and can get those just by having the fat in chunks and NOT well blended with the flour.I’ve heard of the role of White Lily flour — maybe part of it is its fraction of gluten from its fraction of hard versus soft wheat flour.Good to see that the fat is butter instead of lard or Crisco.For the singing, there is, surehttps://www.youtube.com/wat…A cute Deanna Durbin performance, with a story to go with it, starts at about 5:00 inhttps://www.youtube.com/wat…Or starting at 4:41 inhttps://www.youtube.com/wat…Or by the British, from Handelhttps://www.youtube.com/wat…WOW, with all that singing they must have been REALLY good biscuits!!!Ah, the famous advice “plastics” was pretty good but “electronics” would have been better!AT&T Bell Labs thought that the transistor was too big to patent so gave it to the world — I wonder if even they, Shockley, etc., had any idea what it could do!Similarly for their work on solid state lasers for lighting optical fibers!Special times!

  7. Matt A. Myers

    Butter also generally is bad for human consumption – as is dairy. People’s ego mind prefers entertainment over health though, the more so the more unhealthy, disconnected one is from their body; it’s good and all to shout from the rooftop the good parts of something, e.g. tasty, but what about the bad parts?

  8. jason wright

    Not enough of that on the web. It’s mostly hard lard yards.

  9. WA

    Julia Child is kvelling…somewhere…

  10. Betty

    unless you hate butter… me right here :O

  11. ThatOtherOtherGuy

    I think Linda Richman (Mike Myers) beat you to use of “Butter” by quite awhile https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  12. ThatOtherOtherGuy

    Linda Richman (Mike Myers) gets credit for coining the use of “butter” https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  13. sigmaalgebra

    Yes, there was a remark that some of the big secrets of French cooking are (i) lots of butter, e.g., added at the end for most sauces, (ii) if not butter, then cream, especially heavy cream, sometimes whipped with sugar, and (iii) in nearly all savory dishes at least a little garlic. Another standard source of enrichment is egg yolks. Of course the food chemists will explain that fats capture flavors; e.g., the perfume industry used to put rose pedals on lard to extract the aromas.

  14. Lawrence Brass

    This is from Disney’s Pinocchio movie, Figaro the cat sniffing dinner… and the butter m.e.l.t.i.n.g. Couldn’t find the actual animation. As I child I was very impressed by the animation sequence. I recall it every time I see butter melting. This is ancient stuff. Anyone? 🙂 https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Shhhhh, big secret, do NOT tell anyone! For Christmas for a niece, I’ve got a genuine copy of the original 1938 or so Disney Snow White. From that movie, as in your image of Figaro the cat, Disney’s artists were just TERRIFIC — I do NOT see how the heck they did, do, that — at making animals look like humans displaying strong emotions!For more, in Snow White, some of the emotions are so over the top — the images of the pure evil of the queen, Snow White running away terrified of the prince, the prince singing to Snow White, the scene of Snow White lost in the woods at night, the dwarfs afraid of who is in their house, the evil queen transformed into a witch and making the poison apple, the evil queen tricking Snow White, the reactions of grief of the dwarfs of Snow White’s death — it may be too much for the niece. Disney really cranked up the emotional content.The emotional range in that movie is astounding: The Disney rabbits, squirrels, birds, etc. are adorable beyond belief, and how his artists drew those to make animals look like humans adorable beyond belief is still more amazing.Then, near the beginning in just minutes, really just seconds, Disney had Snow White look lovable beyond belief. A story goes that, better to draw Snow White, the Disney crew got Marge Champion, the dancer, filmed her dancing, talking, etc., and then did the animation from that film! So, really, for a lot of the expressiveness of Snow White, are looking at Marge Champion!Story telling has not improved since 1938!

  15. Dan Epstein

    I’ve started adding extra butter to my scrambled eggs (about 1.5 TB in the pan before the eggs so they don’t stick, and then another half TB with 4 eggs). Give it a try if you make scrambled eggs.

  16. Wyatt Brown

    When the butter is SO good that even the problems are digestible; A product manager and gatsronomophile’s dream.

  17. Pascal Aschwanden

    Considering the long term, catastrophic health consequences of consuming butter, I’m a bit surprised you use that as something aspirational