Posts from Weblogs

Proof Of Blog

We have a tradition at USV that one of our new analysts, Dani, coined Proof Of Blog.

I like that term so much. It really speaks to why we have this tradition.

When someone new joins USV, we ask them to introduce themselves to our world on the USV blog.

Here are some recent “proof of blog” posts:

Dani Grant

Naomi Shah

Zach Goldstein

Even partners at USV do this. Here is Rebecca’s post announcing her arrival at USV last fall.

And Lauren, who has been at USV for almost four years now, but is in a relatively new role, introduced a new wrinkle to this tradition blogging about her new responsibilities.

It is easy to think of a venture firm as a collection of partners; me, Brad, Albert, John, Andy, Rebecca, because we are the most visible people in our firm to the outside world.

Proof of blog is a bit about changing that perception so people know the larger team. And it is also about the broader team making sure folks know a bit about them and what interests them so entrepreneurs can leverage relationships with them too.

If you don’t follow the USV blog, but want to, you can do that on the USV Twitter handle or the USV blog RSS feed.

#VC & Technology#Weblogs

Subscribing To AVC Via Email

About a month ago I put all of AVC traffic behind “https.”

This is something you can do with one click of a button if you are behind Cloudflare, as AVC is.

I should have done this a long time ago, but only got around to doing it last month.

In the process, I broke the subscribe via email feature and only fixed it this morning.

So, this is as good of a time as any to mention that you can get this blog delivered via email every morning.

You can subscribe via email (or RSS if you prefer that) here.

#Weblogs

AVC Downtime

For much of yesterday if you came to AVC, you were greeted with this message:

Long time AVC readers have seen this before and it is a sign that something is awry on the shared server that I run WordPress on at Bluehost.

A number of regular readers reached out offering to help me move to a static platform and I will likely take them up on that.

Until then I can only apologize for the availability issues yesterday.

#Weblogs

I Read Your Newsletter

I get that a lot.

And I saw this on Twitter this week (which made my day, Matt is great).

I certainly don’t think of AVC as a newsletter.

I think of it as a blog, a public place to write every day.

But many/most of you get it via email and read it that way (and reply to me that way too).

Which is fine.

The format doesn’t really matter as much as the frequency, the writing, and the topics I touch on regularly.

I get that and support that.

If you don’t get AVC via email but want to, you can do that here.

#Weblogs

An Addition To The AVC Comment Policy

Yesterday I went to see what the community was talking about and found this at the top of the comment threads:

I thought to myself “oh shit, the token scammers have arrived” and immediately deleted those comments and left a reply saying that I am going to update the comment policy.

So I did that this morning.

There will be no token promotions in the AVC comments, period.

I am fine with discussing the merits of various blockchain/crypto technologies and tokens, but outright promotion is not cool and I won’t allow it.

I hope this is clear and everyone understands why it is necessary.

#blockchain#crypto#Weblogs

Owning Yourself

I saw the news today that HuffPo is shutting down their “contributor network.”

we are ending the HuffPost contributor platform. The platform, which launched in May 2005, was a revolutionary idea at the time: give a megaphone to lots of people ― some famous, some completely unknown ― to tell their stories. At that time, social networks barely existed. Facebook was a nascent dating site for college students. Twitter had not been invented. The platforms where so many people now share their views, like LinkedIn, Medium and others, were far in the future.

While that is sad news, it is not the least bit surprising.

I said this on Twitter about this news:

I would never outsource my content to some third party. I blog on my own domain using open source software (WordPress) that I run on a shared server that I can move if I want to. It is a bit of work to set this up but the benefits you get are enormous.

I have been asked to blog at Medium, LinkedIn, HuffPo, and many other places. I always tell them that I am not going to do that. If they want to repost something I have written here on their platform, that is cool with me. The content here at AVC is creative commons licensed and freely available for reposting with a few reasonably constraints.

But this is part of a much larger and more important narrative. We are in the “Internet Two” phase as Steven Johnson called in it his piece that I blogged about yesterday. Internet One was an open network, open protocols, open systems. Internet Two is closed platforms that increasingly dominate the market and own and control our content and us. We need to get to Internet Three where we take back control of ourselves. It is high time for that to happen. The HuffPo news is a small example of what that is so important.

#Web/Tech#Weblogs

Disqus and Zeta

Today, our portfolio company Disqus, which makes the software that powers the comments on this blog, is announcing that they have joined the Zeta Global empire.

Zeta Global operates the largest independent marketing cloud for enterprises. Zeta competes with companies like Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle, IBM, and others to provide enterprises the marketing services they need to grown and sustain their businesses.

Zeta Global has grown mostly by acquisition and they operate many different businesses that they have bought over the years. They will continue to operate Disqus as an independent service and brand. The Disqus management team have joined the Zeta organization and I will be joining the Zeta Advisory Board in connection with this transaction.

The Zeta management team understands that community is part of the marketing equation and they understand that Disqus powers more communities on the Internet than any other tool, by a wide margin. I expect that Zeta will continue to invest in the Disqus comment system to sustain it as the best community tool out there.

Personally, I am happy that the Disqus founders and team have found a transaction that allows them an exit while finding a good home for the Disqus comment system in the process. They have been building Disqus since the summer of 2007, over ten years. They have done a great job staying focused, winning the market, getting profitable, and now finding a great exit. It has been a pleasure to have a front row seat to that ride.

#Weblogs

Was This About Me?

I often get people asking if something I wrote was about them or their company.

I have a rule for myself.

I don’t write a post about a specific person or company without making it clear that the post is about that person or company.

There are times when I don’t want to name that person or company, but when something is about a someone or some company, I don’t hide that. I make it clear.

On the day I wrote the “Greed Isn’t Good” post, I got a lot of questions about who or what it was about.

I replied on Twitter:

I do not send messages to people or companies via a post on my blog. If I want to tell someone something, I will do that privately.

#Weblogs

A Public Record

AVC has been going on for almost 14 years now. I write every day, mostly about tech and investing in startups and observations about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.

WordPress says I have posted 7,622 times. That is more than once a day but that is because I used to post multiple times a day. Now I can barely find the time to write once a day.

Anyway, posting your thoughts and investment ideas every day creates a public record.

That can be bad when you are consistently wrong about something, like I have been about Apple since Steve Jobs left the company.

But all in all, I would not have it any other way.

A few days ago, Founder Playbook posted a timeline of my writing on Bitcoin and Blockchain, stating that “Since 2011, Fred has been bullish, yet critical, on the crypto market.”

I have been a believer in Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Crypto since 2011 and my confidence in this macro investment thesis gets stronger every day.

And I will continue to critique the sector, calling it out when I see things like greed, infighting, or other issues that get in the way of its collective success.

One could do a similar lookback on my roughly decade long obsession with social media that led me to blogging and ended around the time I fell for crypto.

I tend to get obsessed about one thing and write a lot about it. Which creates a public record. You can’t hide from that, but then again blogging is the opposite of hiding.

#blockchain#VC & Technology#Weblogs

Zemanta - From SeedCamp to Outbrain

In the summer of 2008, I attended the SeedCamp in London and the winner of that class was a company called Zemanta, out of Ljubljana Slovenia. I was taken with everything about Zemanta; a small team (three founders), out of a place that I had never been to and had barely heard of, winning the SeedCamp with a really smart blogging tool that I just had to have on my blog.

USV invested in a seed round that summer that was led by the SeedCamp folks and Eden Ventures. Zemanta was USV’s first European investment. Today, we have ten out of sixty-seven active portfolio companies (~15%) based in Europe.

The seed investment in Zemanta led to a nine year journey with Bostjan and Andraz, who founded Zemanta along with Ales.

The blogging tool is amazing. It recommends links and images in real time as you type into your blogging tool. I still have it running in my WordPress web application. It looks like this right now.

Zemanta sold the blogging tool to a company called Sovrn a while ago and refocused on the native advertising market. They understood how to place related content into a content feed as well as anyone and they decided to focus the company on that. Bostjan and Andraz recruited Todd to lead the new business opportunity. Over the course of the last three years, Zemanta DSP has become the leading buying tool for native advertising.

And the largest company in the native advertising market, Outbrain, became their largest customer. So a few months ago, Outbrain asked the Zemanta founders to join their team and help build some important new technology for Outbrain. After haggling for a few minutes, the deal was sealed and Outbrain now has an office and a team in Ljubljana.

Like every investment, Zemanta taught me a few important things. I learned how to work with founders from a different part of the world, I learned that Ljubljana is a lovely little city with wonderful cafes and restaurants along a gorgeous river, I learned that you can keep a company alive for almost a decade on less than five million dollars if you have a crack team of product managers, data scientists, and software engineers in a place that most people don’t know about, and I learned that tenacity wins, always.

I am pleased that Zemanta has found a home inside a larger company with a bigger opportunity, I am pleased that Ljubljana has a startup success it can point to, and I am pleased that USV is now a shareholder in Outbrain, an investment I mistakenly passed on a decade ago. But mostly I am pleased that Bostjan and Andraz, with a lot of help from Todd, were able to go all the way, from startup to exit, never losing that which makes them special. That’s a big win in my book.

#entrepreneurship#Weblogs