Posts from Fred Wilson

How This Ends

Back in February of last year, I wrote a blog post with the same title and said this about the asset price bubble we were living in and investing in over the last few years:

The big question is how does this end?

I believe it ends when the Covid 19 pandemic is over and the global economy recovers. Those two things won’t necessarily happen at the same time. There is a wide range of recovery scenarios and nobody really knows how long it will take the global economy to recover from the pandemic.

But at some point, economies will recover, central banks will tighten the money supply, and interest rates will rise. We may see price inflation of consumer goods and labor too, although that is less clear.

When economies recover and interest rates rise, the air will come out of the asset price bubbles that have built up and the go go markets will hit the brakes.

Well now the markets have hit the brakes and the new question is how that ends.

I have been using the early 80s as a bit of a mental model. The late 70s saw oil prices rise and stagflation emerge and while that is not exactly what has happened with COVID and the war in Ukraine, there are some similarities.

In the early 80s, the G7 economies tightened the money supply, raising interest rates dramatically, in an effort to bring inflation under control. You can see the effect in this image:

The early 80s had a double dip recession (one in 1980 and another one for 18 months in 1981 and 1982). The economy was weak for three years at the start of the decade. But the latter half of the decade was one of the best economies in modern times.

So I suspect we are either in a recession right now or headed to one, brought on by tightening money supply/higher rates that are being used to control inflation. That recession could easily last until the end of 2023. But we don’t really know how long it will take for this cycle to play out.

Markets have already corrected and I think that public tech stocks have already seen most of the damage they are going to see. I don’t know if we have hit bottom but I think we are closer to the bottom than the top now. But that does not mean they will turn around and go right back up.

This is a price chart of the NASDAQ during the early 80s recession and you can see that prices did not start to move up until the second half of 1983, when the recession was starting to end.

So how does this market meltdown that we are now in end?

First, we need to see the economy slow down and inflation slow down. We need to see stocks bottom out and hang out there for a while. And we need to be patient. None of this is going to happen fast.

I would be planning to ride this thing out for at least eighteen months or more.

#Current Affairs#economics#entrepreneurship#stocks#VC & Technology

Funding Friday: The $2.5mm Match

I blogged about the $1k Project For Ukraine a couple of months ago. Since then over 5,000 families in Ukraine have gotten a $1k gift, no strings attached, to help them survive during this crisis. That is $5mm of direct aid to families in Ukraine.

Yesterday, Stewart Butterfield, the founder of Slack, tweeted that he and Jen Rubio will be matching another $2.5mm of $1k donations over the next 48 hours, starting at mid-day yesterday.

I just supported another five families and with this generous match, that is ten families.

You can join me in supporting a family, or five, or however many you’d like here.

#Current Affairs#hacking philanthropy

The Founder Resolve

Investing in founder-led businesses is comforting to me. They have the ability to see the forest through the trees and do what is necessary to evolve the business.

Two great examples of this are Microsoft in the mid 90s and Facebook a decade ago.

Microsoft had spent more than a decade competing and winning the desktop software market and then Netscape came along and presented an entirely new market opportunity that had both major upside and major downside for Microsoft. Microsoft reacted by moving aggressively to compete with Netscape by launching Internet Explorer and using its desktop software dominance to establish IE as the dominant browser by the end of the decade.

Facebook had spent about a decade competing and winning the social networking market and then Apple launched the iPhone and new mobile social networks like Instagram emerged that both threatened Facebook’s existing dominance and also presented new large opportunities in social networking. Facebook went on a year-long effort to become a “mobile-first” company and also acquired Instagram that year. This all happened in Facebook’s first year as a public company.

I was thinking about that because as many are wringing their hands about the collapse of crypto prices and stock prices and cutting back costs and playing defense, Coinbase announced yesterday that they are investing heavily in the next wave of web3:

The application era of crypto is upon us and products/companies like Metamask and OpenSea are showing how important and lucrative that market is. Coinbase has reacted by making huge new bets on Coinbase Wallet and Coinbase NFT and is committed to winning in those markets like it did in the investment era of web3.

It is very hard to do this sort of thing when your stock price is under pressure and when the markets are in free fall. And yet that is what leaders must do when new use cases emerge and present themselves as both an opportunity and a threat.

Disclosure: I am a Director of and our family is a large shareholder of Coinbase.

#entrepreneurship#Web3

Tech Year NYC

Tech:NYC is launching a new initiative, Tech Year NYC, which helps young people from underrepresented backgrounds get access to careers in NYC’s fast-growing tech sector.

Tech Year NYC is a rollup of several existing city programs into a single point of entry and engagement for tech companies and students. The idea is to make it easier for local tech companies to engage with this population and easier for the students to get access to these pathways to jobs.

Students are compensated for their participation by the city and industry partners and will come out of the program with professional skills essential to work in the tech sector and additional skill-building opportunities.

Tech Year NYC is an expansion of a project-based learning curriculum that Tech:NYC developed with the Mayor’s Office of Youth Employment back in the summer of 2020 called Summer Bridge. Over the last two years, over 100 tech companies and over 3,000 students have participated in this effort.

The summer 2022 Tech Year NYC pilot will run from July 5th to August 12th and serve over 1,000 students. 500 of these students will continue career exploration and skills development through the fall semester. If and when this pilot proves successful, Tech Year NYC will be expanded to reach many more students and employers.

Tech NYC is recruiting employer partners to lead these 5-week long project-based programs, open your doors for “tech open houses”, and participate in professional skills workshops for these students. You can learn more and register to be an employer partner this summer here.

#employment#hacking education#NYC

Getting Together In Person

Last week we held USV’s annual Portfolio Summit here in NYC. Every year we invite the leaders of our portfolio companies to come to NYC and spend a couple of days with us and each other. However, we were not able to do that in 2020 and 2021 so this was our first Portfolio Summit since 2019.

In the three years that have passed since our last summit, we roughly doubled the size of our portfolio, adding 65 new investments. That is 65 founders and leaders that had not been to a USV Summit, and in some cases, we had not met them in person.

This is a photo of folks arriving on the first day and settling in:

There is nothing particularly interesting about that photo. Most of us have been to these sorts of business affairs countless times. Except that we have not been able to do it for the last two years.

I have always felt like our two-day Portfolio Summit is my favorite work event of the year. And I had not realized how much I had missed it. It is so great to see everyone together in person, sharing experiences and ideas with each other and building relationships.

We learned some new tricks over the last two years. Those of us who work in VC and startups can work remotely and get most everything we need done. But we have to remember the power of being together and do more of it. It really makes a difference.

#VC & Technology

Some Thoughts On Twitter

When I read the news a few weeks ago that Elon Musk had offered to buy Twitter, I wrote this:

I continue to believe that decentralization is the right long-term answer for a core communications protocol of the Internet and hope that Elon will think about doing just that once he owns it and is not concerned with the stock price and meeting quarterly revenue targets.

My partner Albert wrote this yesterday:

Albert’s suggestion would return Twitter to where it was a decade and a half ago when it first launched and that would be a fantastic first step towards full decentralization.

I continue to believe that a single person owning one of the most important communications protocols of the internet is a bad idea, but maybe it can be a bridge to something better.

Certainly being a public company has not been the right ownership model to make the big fundamental changes which are badly needed.

#Web/Tech

An Earth Day Message To The New York State Legislature

It is Earth Day, a day to celebrate our planet and rededicate ourselves to saving it. I plan to walk and ride my bike, avoid cars, and enjoy being out and about in NYC today.

But I’d also like to talk about something that is bothering me.

The New York State Assembly and Senate are working to pass a bill that would put a two-year moratorium on “proof of work” cryptocurrency mining. Here is the most important part of the bill:

1. For the period commencing on the effective date of this section and
    25  ending two years after such date,  the  department,  after  consultation
    26  with  the department of public service, shall not approve a new applica-
    27  tion for or issue a new permit pursuant  to  this  article,  or  article
    28  seventy  of  this  chapter,  for  an  electric  generating facility that
    29  utilizes a carbon-based fuel and that provides, in  whole  or  in  part,
    30  behind-the-meter  electric energy consumed or utilized by cryptocurrency
    31  mining operations that use proof-of-work authentication methods to vali-
    32  date blockchain transactions.
    33    2. For the period commencing on the effective date of  this    section
    34  and  ending  two years after such date, the department shall not approve
    35  an application to renew an existing permit or  issue  a  renewal  permit
    36  pursuant  to  this  article  for  an  electric  generating facility that
    37  utilizes a carbon-based fuel and that provides, in  whole  or  in  part,
    38  behind-the-meter electric energy consumed or utilized by a cryptocurren-
    39  cy  mining  operation  that uses proof-of-work authentication methods to
    40  validate blockchain transactions if the  renewal  application  seeks  to
    41  increase  or  will allow or result in an increase in the amount of elec-
    42  tric energy consumed or utilized by a  cryptocurrency  mining  operation
    43  that  uses  proof-of-work  authentication methods to validate blockchain
    44  transactions.

I believe this bill resulted from an application to fire up an old coal-powered electric plan to power a Bitcoin mining facility and I will be the first to admit that is a horrible idea. We should not be firing up old fossil fuel plants for any sort of economic activity. It is time to retire fossil fuel-powered plants and replace them with nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, and other clean energy sources.

But the idea of targeting a specific industry for this moratorium and leaving all other economic activity in NYS free to use fossil fuel is just absurd. Is it OK to use fossil fuels to power bowling alleys, movie theaters, car washes, sports stadiums, data centers, banks, homes, cars, etc, etc? Is it just not OK to use fossil fuel to power a network that secures our next-generation technology stack?

And at the same time New York State is doing this, the State of California is preparing an Executive Order that will be extremely friendly to the emerging crypto/web3 industry. New York State is already fighting an uphill battle with the crypto/web3 industry with its god awful BitLicense law and now they want to do this.

New York State should just put signs up on the Holland Tunnel, the Lincoln Tunnel, the George Washington Bridge, the Peace Bridge, and everywhere else people arrive in New York State that says “Web3 Is Not Welcome Here.” And save themselves the time and energy of doing nonsense like this.

We get the message loud and clear.

#blockchain#climate crisis#crypto#Current Affairs#NYC#Web3

A Visit To The 6529 Museum District

6529 is one of the top NFT collectors in the world and last week he launched the first destination in an Open Metaverse that he is encouraging people to develop along with him.

That destination is the 6529 Museum District and you can visit it here.

When you arrive you will see this map which gives you a sense of what is there right now.

All of these museums are fun to visit, but I particularly recommend:

– Genesis

– Sunshine Square

– Imagined Worlds

– General Assembly

– ACK Bar

I hope you take a stroll through the Museum District this week and if you do, I expect you will enjoy it.

Full Disclosure: USV and I both own interests in many of the NFTs shown in the Museum District.

#AR/VR#art#non fungible tokens

Content Moderation and Free Speech

Mike Masnick wrote a good piece on this topic on his Techdirt blog last week.

I particularly like this part:

First, let’s look at the world without any content moderation. A website that has no content moderation but allows anyone to post will fill up with spam. Even this tiny website gets thousands of spam comments a day. Most of them are (thankfully) caught by the layers upon layers of filtering tools we’ve set up.

Would anyone argue that it is “against the principles of free speech” to filter spam? I would hope not.

But once you’ve admitted that it’s okay to filter spam, you’ve already admitted that content moderation is okay — you’re just haggling over how much and where to draw the lines.

And, really, the spam example is instructive in many ways. People recognize that if a website is overrun with spam, it’s actually detrimental for speech overall, because how can anyone communicate when all of the communication is interrupted or hard to find due to spam?

https://www.techdirt.com/2022/03/30/why-moderating-content-actually-does-more-to-support-the-principles-of-free-speech/

I, like many in tech, would prefer a world where there is little to no moderation and where you get a lively expression of different views. I use Twitter explicitly to hear voices I don’t hear in my day-to-day routines.

But as Mike notes, you must moderate content online in order to create spaces where conversations can be had.

And inevitably, this leads me to the same conclusion that Mike comes to at the end of his post. What we need are way more venues for conversations and way more venues with different moderation policies.

In other words, the concept of free speech should support a diversity of communities — not all speech on every community (or any particular community). And content moderation is what makes that possible.

https://www.techdirt.com/2022/03/30/why-moderating-content-actually-does-more-to-support-the-principles-of-free-speech/

The early days of Twitter are instructive here. The Twitter website was unreliable and the API allowed anyone to build a third-party client. So many Twitter users used a different user interface to access Twitter and use Twitter. Had that architecture endured it could have created many “clients” with different moderation policies. Just like we have many email clients. It did not endure and so we have one company controlling the moderation policy of the entire Twitter conversation. That is not ideal.

Contrast this with Ethereum. We have a single protocol with many self custody wallets. Each self custody wallet has a slightly different user interface that allows users to access the Ethereum network in slightly different ways. But all of the teams working on the Ethereum ecosystem have a shared incentive to improve the network because they all own ETH. So a single protocol with a rich variety of third-party clients becomes sustainable.

If we want free speech then we want less concentration of market power and business models that allow for that. Advertising does not. Token-based business models do.

#Web/Tech#Web3

Scaling The Ethereum Ecosystem

I went to renew a .ETH domain I own this morning and the gas fees were so high that I decided to come back another time.

Ethereum is the most popular smart contract blockchain by far but it frequently gets congested and expensive. Using it to acquire and renew domains, normally a transaction that costs less than $100 USD, is challenging.

That is why there are a host of Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compatible layer one blockchains (L1s) and a number of layer two networks (L2s) that run on top of the Ethereum mainnet. These networks allow decentralized apps (dapps) that use Ethereum smart contracts to operate much less expensively.

I went into my Coinbase Wallet this morning to see how many of these L1 and L2 networks they currently support and found this list.

There are many more L1s and L2s that have launched, but that is a list of some of the most popular ones. I expect that Coinbase Wallet and Metamask and other self custody wallets will continue to add additional ones over the next few years.

My son went to the Knicks game on Saturday and they were offering Knicks NFTs on the Jumbotron. I told him to buy me one. He did and bought it on the Polygon network to save fees. He sent it to my self custody wallet and when I switch networks to Polygon in the wallet, I can see the NFT.

That’s how these L1s and L2s work in self custody wallets today.

I don’t think that is how they will always work.

I think that a lot of the Web3 “plumbing” that is now visible to users in the wallets and dapps will eventually be hidden by developers so users don’t need to worry about which network their assets are on. They will be able to find them, use them, transfer them, sell them, etc without needing to know which chain they are dealing with.

But for now, this is the state of play with the Ethereum ecosystem. You increasingly need to go to a different L1 or L2 to do things cost-effectively. And when you do, there is added complexity for the user. This is both progress in the sense that third-party developers are building technology to scale the Ethereum ecosystem and pain in the sense that an already complicated user experience is getting more complicated.

Hiding all of this complexity for the end-user is definitely one of the big opportunities in web3 right now.

#Web3