Posts from Fred Wilson

AVC 3.0

Welcome to the new AVC. This is the third “iteration” of this blog.

The first iteration (AVC 1.0) was the Typepad era during which I redesigned AVC a number of times using Typepad’s tools. That lasted from September 2003 to February 2014.

About six years ago, we moved AVC to WordPress and did a significant redesign (AVC 2.0) and very little has changed since then.

AVC 2.0 had a nice long run and served its purpose very well. 

But for most of the last year, I have wanted to make a number of changes to AVC:

1/ I wanted to move to a new host. I have been struggling to maintain the hosting infrastructure by myself and that has resulted in a number of outages, some only visible to me, some visible to all of you. 

2/ I wanted to get a professional developer team involved that I can rely on from time to time to help me with technical issues.

3/ I wanted to improve search so that we can all find those old blog posts that we know exist but are no longer on the front page.

4/ I wanted to move to a more minimalist design where the blog posts are the main thing you notice when you come here.

5/ I wanted to find a way to continue to allow discussions without having to manage/maintain/moderate a full-blown comment community.

I am happy to report that I was able to do all of that with AVC 3.0:

1/ AVC is now running on Siteground. We continue to use Cloudflare for security and caching. We now use AWS for backups of the WordPress data.

2/ AVC is now supported by Storyware who will help me manage the hosting infrastructure and will be available to make tweaks to the UI when/if necessary.

3/ AVC search now runs on Algolia which will allow me to tweak and improve search relevancy over time to make it easier to find older blog posts.

4/ AVC has a sleek new design, made by Kirk Love, which is minimalist and copy centric.

5/ Comments are gone, replaced by a very cool WordPress/Twitter plugin developed by my colleague Nick Grossman which was built on top of this existing WordPress plugin.

Those are the big changes. Many things remain the same.

1/ You can continue to subscribe to AVC by email and RSS. We continue to use Feedblitz and Feedburner, respectively, to power that.

2/ We continue to maintain an archive of old blog posts by date and category and a specific archive for MBA Mondays.

3/ We continue to show full blog posts on the front page in reverse chronological order.

4/ We continue to run the USV Team Posts widget so you can see what my colleagues at USV are blogging about.

There are two important changes that I would like to talk about a bit more.

I have typically blogged every day, including weekends. I tend to post audio or video on Saturdays and write a regular blog post on Sundays. I am going to move to optional blogging on the weekends. I will sometimes write on Sundays and I will sometimes post audio or video on Saturdays. But I will not commit to doing that every weekend. I have already started to do this and some of you may have noticed it. You will notice this change in the About page.

AVC has always had comments. Initially on Typepad’s comment system. Then powered by Disqus, a former USV portfolio company. Disqus is a fantastic product, built and maintained by a terrific group of people. It is the best commenting system in the market by a very long shot. But managing, maintaining, and moderating a comment community is something that you must actively work on. I have done that assisted voluntarily by a number of AVC regulars, most notably William Mougayar, and also Shana Carp. I very much appreciate all the work they have done on this over the years. But I have tired of the work and I imagine that they have too.

So we have moved to hosting the discussions of AVC blog posts on Twitter. You will see two buttons at the bottom of a post. The first button allows anyone to easily post a comment as a reply to the @AVC tweet announcing a new blog post. The second button will allow you to see the entire comment thread on Twitter. 

Kirk initially suggested this approach of using Twitter to host discussions to me. My colleague Nick developed the functionality and it has been running on his blog for a few weeks now. He built it on top of this existing WordPress to Twitter plugin.  The “Discuss On Twitter” functionality is now running on in addition to Nick’s blog and AVC.

I think Twitter is a fantastic place to host discussions and I hope that other bloggers that use WordPress will adopt Nick’s plugin. And I plan to show this plugin to Jack and others at Twitter in the hopes that they will adopt it and make this a feature of Twitter than can run on all blogging platforms.

I hope you like AVC 3.0 as much as I do. And I hope that you will continue to get as much value out of it as I do.


What Is Going On With AVC? (continued)

I have received a bunch of questions from AVC regulars about this temporary design and what is going on with AVC.

As I wrote in the first post in this series :), a couple of files in my WordPress configuration got deleted during the year-end holidays, messing up the look and feel of AVC pretty badly.

At the same time, I have been working with Kirk Love (a longtime friend) and a WordPress design firm called Storyware to design and build an entirely new AVC.

I am pleased to let all of you know that this shiny new AVC will launch tomorrow with a blog post from me talking about the new design and what we are trying to do with it.


Mass Transit In LA

This is the sixth winter we have spent in Los Angeles. One of the things I have had the hardest time getting used to about life in LA is all of the driving.

But starting last year, I found myself using the LA Metro system a bunch. The catalyst was going to Lakers and Clippers games at the Staples Center. I just could not stomach sitting for up to 90 minutes in traffic to attend a basketball game. Instead I would hop on the Expo line in Santa Monica and arrive at the Staples Center 35-40mins later. On the way home, I would grab a ride with a friend or Uber or some combination of both as traffic heading west at 10pm is almost non-existent.

But then I suggested to The Gotham Gal that we Metro it downtown for dinner and Uber it home. We did that once or twice.

This winter, I have already taken the Metro half a dozen times and I am writing this post on the Metro as I’m taking it to Pasadena from Santa Monica today.

The Metro is not as convenient as the NYC Subway. There are fewer lines, six in total, and I still need to drive to get to it from our house.

But being able to read, work, text with my children, and whatever else I might want to do instead of driving, is fantastic and makes LA a bit more like NYC for me. Which is a good thing in my book.

#life lessons

Turning It Off Vs Dialing It Down

Today is one of those days when everyone gets back to work after a time off. This holiday break was a particularly long one given that Christmas and New Years came in the middle of the week. So many of us are getting back to work after a particularly long break.

I am a huge believer in down time. I think everyone needs a break to step away from work and rest a bit. I also believe that time away from work clears the head and reveals things that are not always clear in the thick of things.

But I have struggled over the years between the choice of turning everything off vs dialing things down.

It is hard to get real rest and a clear head that comes with new insights if you don’t turn everything off and really disengage.

But coming back from time off when you truly disengaged is harder. There are more emails to answer, more people waiting at your door for answers, and so on and so forth.

I tend to dial it down when I take time off. I try to stay on top of important emails, memos, decks, presentations, scheduling efforts, and the like. I can usually keep that to an hour a day in the morning and another hour at the end of the day.

That makes days like today, when everyone gets back to business, a bit easier for me.

It does come at a cost as I don’t truly disengage, but I have found it to work better for me over the years. That said, I appreciate it when colleagues and others take the opposite approach and really disengage. There is real value to that approach too.

#life lessons

What To Work On

My partner Brad likes to ask about the distinction between doing things right and doing the right thing. His observation, which I totally agree with, is that many people and companies do things right but don’t do the right thing. Taking the observation one step further, I have seen that doing the right thing the wrong way can actually result in something important and successful whereas doing the wrong thing the right way rarely does.

So that begs the question “what should I work on?”

First and foremost, I believe we should all work on projects that interest us, where we have insights that others don’t have, and that motivate and inspire us and others.

I also think that working on something that meets this first test is necessary but not sufficient.

Beyond that test, which is a must, I believe we should be working on something that can have a large impact. Coming from a venture capitalist, I am sure many people will read that as “make a lot of money.” But that is not what I mean. Impact can be measured by money. But it can also be measured by the number of people that will use your product or service. It can be measured by how it changes the way people think and how they react to your product or service or innovation. Even if Tesla fails as a company (which I do not think will happen), they have changed the way the automobile industry operates forever. That is an example of impact.

And then a third very important thing is how you are going to address the problem, how you are going to market, how you are going to make money (the business model), and how you are going to defend your market position and business. This is often where the magic is. Let’s say you have an insight on how to use video to deliver education to young people to significantly improve learning. You could build a business that delivers that technology to the existing school system. Or you could build a business that goes directly to the students and bypasses the existing school system. These are two very different “go to market” strategies, they imply two very different business models, and they will result in very different long term market positions. Your choices on “how” will ultimately define your work more than anything and getting this right is so critical.

A lot of entrepreneurs ask me for help in figuring out what to work on. I tell them that I can’t tell them what to work on. That has to come from within and nobody can give it to you.

But I can give you a framework because choosing what to invest in is a lot like choosing what to work on. One is an investment of money (and time). The other is an investment of time and yourself. The latter is such a larger investment and the risks are much higher. But the framework is similar.

You must work on something that inspires you and others, you must work on something with a significant impact, and you must do it in a way that makes getting where you want to go as easy as possible and keeps you there as long as possible.


Managing Multiple Twitter Handles

Like Mitt Romney and Kevin Durant, I manage multiple Twitter handles. Although neither is a secret handle.

I use @fredwilson for my personal tweets and I use @avc for this blog. I have done that since I joined Twitter in the spring of 2007.

The idea is to keep AVC blog discussions on @avc and leave @fredwilson for other things. That isn’t how it plays out however and on a day with a lot of discussion about AVC posts (like the last two days), I get reactions on both and engage actively on both.

Moving back and forth between Twitter handles on the Twitter mobile app is a breeze. You just add a second profile to the mobile app and you can switch back and forth in the profile view.

I have not found that to be as easy in a desktop browser and so I run two browsers, one where I am logged in on @fredwilson and the other where I am logged in on @avc. If there is a better way to do this, I would love to know what it is.

I know most people manage multiple email addresses, one for personal, another for business, and possibly a few more. I do not do that and use my main email address for everything. So I can’t explain why I don’t do the same on social media, but I don’t. And both approaches seem to work well for me.


What Will Happen In The 2020s

It’s 2020. Time to look forward to the decade that is upon us.

One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Bill Gates, is that people overestimate what will happen in a year and underestimate what will happen in a decade.

This is an important decade for mankind. It is a decade in which we will need to find answers to questions that hang over us like last night’s celebrations.

I am an optimist and believe in society’s ability to find the will to face our challenges and the intelligence to find solutions to them.

So, I am starting out 2020 in an optimistic mood and here are some predictions for the decade that we are now in.

1/ The looming climate crisis will be to this century what the two world wars were to the previous one. It will require countries and institutions to re-allocate capital from other endeavors to fight against a warming planet. This is the decade we will begin to see this re-allocation of capital. We will see carbon taxed like the vice that it is in most countries around the world this decade, including in the US. We will see real estate values collapse in some of the most affected regions and we will see real estate values increase in regions that benefit from the warming climate. We will see massive capital investments made in protecting critical regions and infrastructure. We will see nuclear power make a resurgence around the world, particularly smaller reactors that are easier to build and safer to operate. We will see installed solar power worldwide go from ~650GW currently to over 20,000GW by the end of this decade. All of these things and many more will cause the capital markets to focus on and fund the climate issue to the detriment of many other sectors.

2/ Automation will continue to take costs out of operating many of the services and systems that we rely on to live and be productive. The fight for who should have access to this massive consumer surplus will define the politics of the 2020s. We will see capitalism come under increasing scrutiny and experiments to reallocate wealth and income more equitably will produce a new generation of world leaders who ride this wave to popularity.

3/ China will emerge as the world’s dominant global superpower leveraging its technical prowess and ability to adapt quickly to changing priorities (see #1). Conversely the US becomes increasingly internally focused and isolationist in its world view.

4/ Countries will create and promote digital/crypto versions of their fiat currencies, led by China who moves first and benefits the most from this move. The US will be hamstrung by regulatory restraints and will be slow to move, allowing other countries and regions to lead the crypto sector. Asian crypto exchanges, unchecked by cumbersome regulatory restraints in Europe and the US and leveraging decentralized finance technologies, will become the dominant capital markets for all types of financial instruments.

5/ A decentralized internet will emerge, led initially by decentralized infrastructure services like storage, bandwidth, compute, etc. The emergence of decentralized consumer applications will be slow to take hold and a killer decentralized consumer app will not emerge until the latter part of the decade.

6/ Plant based diets will dominate the world by the end of the decade. Eating meat will become a delicacy, much like eating caviar is today. Much of the world’s food production will move from farms to laboratories.

7/ The exploration and commercialization of space will be dominated by private companies as governments increasingly step back from these investments. The early years of this decade will produce a wave of hype and investment in the space business but returns will be slow to come and we will be in a trough of disillusionment on the space business as the decade comes to an end.

8/ Mass surveillance by governments and corporations will become normal and expected this decade and people will increasingly turn to new products and services to protect themselves from surveillance. The biggest consumer technology successes of this decade will be in the area of privacy.

9/ We will finally move on from the Baby Boomers dominating the conversation in the US and around the world and Millennials and Gen-Z will be running many institutions by the end of the decade. Age and experience will be less valued by shareholders, voters, and other stakeholders and vision and courage will be valued more.

10/ Continued advancements in genetics will produce massive wins this decade as cancer and other terminal illnesses become well understood and treatable. Fertility and reproduction will be profoundly changed. Genetics will also create new diseases and moral/ethical issues that will confound and confuse society. Balancing the gains and losses that come from genetics will be our greatest challenge in this decade.

That’s ten predictions, enough for now and enough for me. I hope I made you think as much as I made myself think writing this. That’s the goal. It is impossible to be right about all of this. But it is important to be thinking about it.

I know that comments here at AVC are broken at the moment and so I look forward to the conversation on email and Twitter and elsewhere.

#climate crisis#crypto#economics#employment#entrepreneurship#Food and Drink#hacking energy#hacking finance#policy#Politics#Science#VC & Technology

What Happened In The 2010s

My friend Steve Kane suggested I take a longer view in my pair of year end posts this year:

And so I will.

Here are the big things that happened in tech, startups, business, and more in the decade that is ending today, in no particular order of importance.

1/ The emergence of the big four web/mobile monopolies; Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook. A decade ago, Google dominated search, Apple had a mega hit on their hand with the iPhone, Amazon was way ahead of everyone in e-commerce, and Facebook was emerging as the dominant social media platform. Today, these four companies own monopolies or duopolies in their core markets and are using the power of those market positions to extend their reach into tangential markets and beyond. Google continues to own a monopoly position in search in many parts of the world, has a duopoly position in mobile operating systems, and controls a number of other market leading assets (email, video, etc). Apple owns the other duopoly position in mobile operating systems. Amazon has amassed a dominant position in e-commerce in many parts of the world and has used that position to extend its reach into private label products, logistics, and cloud infrastructure. Facebook built and acquired its way into owning four of the most strategic social media properties in the world; Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Most importantly, outside of China, these four companies own more data about what we do online and also control many of the important channels to reach us in the digital world. What society does about this situation stands as the most important issue in tech at the start of the 2020s.

2/ The massive experiment in using capital as a moat to build startups into sustainable businesses has now played out and we can call it a failure for the most part. Uber popularized this strategy and got very far with it, but sitting here at the end of the 2010s, Uber has not yet proven that it can build a profitable business, is struggling as a public company, and will need something more than capital to sustain its business. WeWork was a fast follower with this strategy and failed to get to the public markets and is undergoing a massive restructuring that will determine the fate of that business. Many other experiments with this model have failed or are failing right now. When I look back at the 2010s, I see a decade during which massive capital flowed into startups and much of it was wasted chasing the “capital as a moat” model.

3/ Machine learning finally came of age in the 2010s and is now table stakes for every tech company, large and small. Accumulating a data asset around your product and service and using sophisticated machine learning models to personalize and improve your product is not a nice to have. It is a must have. This ultimately benefits the three large cloud providers (Amazon, Google, Microsoft) who are providing much of the infrastructure to the tech industry to do this work at scale, which is how you must do it if you want to be competitive.

4/ Subscriptions became the second scaled business model for web and mobile businesses, following advertising which emerged at scale in the previous decade. Startups that developed the skills to execute a subscription business model with positive unit economics delivered fantastic returns to investors and capital flowed into this sector as a result. This was a very positive development as subscriptions better align the interests of the users and the developers of mobile and web applications and avoid many of the negative aspects of the free/ad supported business model. However, as we end the decade, a subscription overload backlash is emerging as many consumers have signed up for more subscriptions than they need and in some cases can afford.

5/ Silicon Valley’s position as mecca for tech and startups started to show signs of weakening in the 2010s, largely because of its massive successes this decade. It is incredibly expensive to live and work in the bay area and the quality of life/cost of life equation is not moving in the right direction. The physical infrastructure (transit, housing, etc) has not kept up with the needs of the region and there is no sign that it will change any time soon. This does not mean “Silicon Valley is over” but it does mean that other tech sectors will find an easier time recruiting talent to their regions and away from Silicon Valley. And talent is really the only thing that matters these days.

6/ Cryptography emerged in the 2010s as a powerful technology that can solve some of the web and mobile’s most vexing issues. Cryptography and encryption have been around for a very long time, well before the computer. Modern computer cryptography came of age in the 1970s. But the emergence of the internet, web, and mobile computing largely did not integrate many of the central ideas of cryptography natively into the protocols that these platforms were built on. The emergence of Bitcoin and decentralized money this decade has shown the way and set the stage for cryptography to be built natively into web and mobile applications and deliver control back to users. Credit to Muneeb Ali for framing this issue for me in a way that makes a lot of sense.

7/ Technology inserted itself right in the middle of society this decade. Our President wakes up and fires off dozens of tweets, possibly while still in bed. We are all hostage to our phones and the services that we rely on. Our elections are conducted using machine learning technology to segment and micro-target important voting groups. And bad actors can and do use the same technologies to interfere in our elections and our public discourse. There is no putting the genie back in the bottle in this regard, but the fact that the tech sector has such a powerful role means that it will be highly regulated by society. And there is no putting the genie back in the bottle in that regard either.

8/ The rich got richer this decade. Axios wrote in a recent email that:

“The rich in already rich countries plus an increasing number of superrich in the developing world … captured an astounding 27% of global growth.”

But the very poor also had a great decade as Axios also reported:

The rate of extreme poverty around the world was cut in half over the past decade (15.7% in 2010 to 7.7% now), and all but eradicated in China.

The losers in the 2010s were lower middle class and middle class people in the developed world whose incomes stagnated or fell.

Technology played a role in all of this. Many of the superrich obtained their wealth through technology business interests. Some of the eradication of extreme poverty is the result of technology as well. And the stagnation of earning power in the lower and middle class is absolutely the result of technology automation, a trend that will only accelerate in coming years.

9/ This a post publish addition. A huge miss in my original post is the emergence of China as a tech superpower and a global superpower. There are many areas (digital money for example) where China is light years ahead of the western world in technology and that will likely accelerate in the coming years. Being a tech superpower is a necessary condition to being a global superpower and China is already that and getting more powerful by the day.

I will end there. These are the big mega-trends I think about when I think about the 2010s. There is no doubt that I left out many important ones. You can and will add them in the comments (wordpress for now), emails to me, and on Twitter and beyond. And that is what I hope you will do.

#crypto#entrepreneurship#machine learning#policy#Politics#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Adversarial Interoperability

As I’m gearing up for two big posts tomorrow and wednesday, I will simply give you a link (courtesy of Nick) to read.

Cory Doctorow’s EFF post on Adversarial Interoperability explains the move we need to make to fix what’s wrong with big tech, monopolies, duopolies, etc, etc. Basically everything that is wrong with the Internet, mobile, and web.

If I was able to issue required reading to everyone who is regulating tech or running for offices that are in a position to regulate tech, this would be it.