Dan Primack and Fred Wilson sat down for an interview last week at the Upfront Summit and the results were amazing. It’s 25 minutes and it’s both a pleasure to watch and is super insightful.
You can watch the interview embedded above of click on this link: Dan Primack interviews Fred Wilson at the Upfront Summit.
The interview was wide ranging and discussed everything from USVs investment thesis over the past 10 years to what some emerging themes are around blockchain and artificial intelligence.
As by now you likely know they had a brief discussion about public markets including about whether Uber should go public. But there was another element that was very subtle and nicely handled that I’d like to expand upon.
Dan asked Fred about “generational change” at USV and in the VC industry more broadly. Fred talked about places who had done this exceptionally well – like Benchmark and Sequoia – and how and why USV is thinking about it. Fred mentioned that in great investment firms the senior partners can continue investing for a long time without leaving the firm but eventually need to give more control to the younger partners. In firms where this transition doesn’t begin the talented younger partners splinter off and form their own firms.
We as an industry have seen this. And honestly it was the single biggest roadblock at Upfront when we raised out fourth fund in 2011. Many potential investors asked me, “Aren’t you just going to leave and form your own fund?” I told everybody I wasn’t going to and I meant it. The founding partner of Upfront, Yves Sisteron, has been a mentor for me since 1999 and was on the board of my first company.
“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all those others that have been tried” – Winston Churchill.
At the Upfront Summit this past week there was an electric interview of Fred Wilson led by well-researched and artful Dan Primack of Fortune Magazine that ended up making news. The newsworthy moment was when Fred expressed his view that companies like Uber should go public. The video of the interview will be available this week and I will talk more about it then because the interview covered so many great topics
Is it a bad thing when public stocks get eviscerated (given USV has a few that have)?
Why could blockchain be a foundational technology that yields many great companies?
Do you need to be technical to be a great VC?
Why AI is an important technology and investment area
And there was a great discussion about generational change at Venture Capital firms handled so well by Benchmark & Sequoia and how Fred is thinking about it.
“This is the year the tortoise may gain on the hare.”
There are a lot of data points that one can observer to get a sense of the venture capital markets – both LP fundings into venture and VC financings of startups. They point to some widely known facts: financings & valuations are up massively over the past 7 years and non-VC money has entered the system.
But these data points are often lagging indicators and perhaps a better barometer of the future would be to gather data on VC perceptions in the market right now. Of course sentiment can swing wildly with new information but I set out to take the pulse of the market as we enter 2016.
[note: to follow realtime conversations & engage with me on Facebook you can follow me here: https://www.facebook.com/msuster ]
State of the Market
The full presentation & data can be downloaded on SlideShare.
Let’s start with some basic data most people know.
5 years ago I sat at our annual meeting bored beyond belief. It wasn’t just that I have ADD making boring meetings excruciatingly painful – it was that the format was tired, unimaginative, uninspiring and not very useful. We did what many VC funds did – we presented our annual results, we stood up and talked about our portfolio companies, we invited a few to also present and then we had dinner & drinks at some posh restaurant.
I have been evangelizing to founders for years to be more thoughtful about how startups update investors and run board meetings so I would be pretty hypocritical if I wasn’t willing to try and be more effective myself.
So I decided to change up our format a bit. Here’s a short sample of what we now do.
I’ve been spending a lot more time on Facebook as a blogger than I ever did. So I thought it was worth explaining why. And I’m going to cross post this entire post on Facebook as an experiment rather than just posting a link on FB and trying to drive people to my blog.
If you want to follow me on Facebook I’m here.
So if you’re reading this on Facebook (or on my blog!) and want to subscribe to my newsletter you can click here.
We all have our Facebook experiences based on life stages that we joined. Some people complained that they had too many connections and it was no longer relevant. These are mostly people who joined in college or their early 20s and FB sort of became like LinkedIn – the place where you were connected to too many people you didn’t really know. Others had very few connections and they used it to share personal information.
I was always more the latter. I signed up for Facebook before many – in 2005 – when I first moved back to the US.