Fred Wilson: An Unassuming Kind Of Guy


Today Fred Wilson has a post on his blog that should have you drooling: Bits Interview.

Nick Bilton
Joi Ito
Twitter Buys An Analytics Company
the company now processes more than 65 million updates daily from its 190 million users
Taking On The Gulf Oil Spill With Kites And Cameras
The kites are flown to around 1,500 feet where they snap images of the area below at regular intervals....... give citizens access to technology that will let them document the effects of the spill themselves. He is putting the kite images into the public domain so they can be accessed and used by anyone without paying a fee.
My last email to Fred went something like this: "Fred, I think sometimes you underestimate the size of your presence in the NY tech ecosystem. You touch so many lives by simply being in town." There is evidence of that underestimation plenty in this blog post.
I don't really like being profiled much. I would prefer people write about the entrepreneurs we back and the companies they build. That's where the interesting stories are....... he got me to talk about being broke right before hitting it big with Geocities in the late 90s, falling in love in college and following the Gotham Gal to NYC, and why my refusal to carry an iPhone is a "political statement."
I am glad I beat Nick Bilton to profiling Fred, although my profile can hardly be called that, it is a sketch with maybe three strokes on the page: Meeting Fred Wilson In Person.

One On One: Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures
Wilson blogs daily ..... I started in 1986, when I was 25 years old. ...... When I showed up at this firm, it was a sleepy old firm, and they still didn’t use computers. ....... My first investment was a company called Software Developers Company. We put about $5 million into the company, and it wasn’t a good investment. ....... I didn’t think I was a good investor for several years until I had to navigate my way out of the software bubble that burst around 2001. When I came out of that experience in 2003, I really felt like I’d figured the business out. ....... The PC hardware bubble, the software bubble and the biotech bubbles all burst in the mid-80s and 90s. ........ we haven’t seen major risky mobile investments, yet. ...... That’s the beautiful thing about working in the financial markets; eventually, stupid stuff happens. ....... (Geocities) .. Before the sale, we were completely broke. We had to move out of New York City because we just couldn’t afford to live in the city. We had three kids, and I was barely scraping by to pay the mortgage. ........ Right before the Geocities sale went through, my wife went to the cash machine to buy groceries for the week and there wasn’t any money in our bank account. I told her to put groceries on the credit card because I knew we were going to sell Geocities the following week. But before that happened, we were living hand to mouth. ........ (New York City) .. I fell in love and followed my wife here. ....... I thought if I paired engineering, software and finance, that would make me an interesting package. ...... When we started Union Square Ventures in 2003, we didn’t envision the industry would be as big as it is today. Between mobile, social, location and other Web properties, these businesses have become huge staples in people’s everyday lives. ....... The businesses that become profitable are largely influenced by the entrepreneurs, and we are largely along for the ride with their decision. But, when companies are not sustainable, we have a lot to say. We don’t necessarily put a gun to their heads, but it’s not that far from it. ....... We looked at Tumblr before we met David Karp, the founder. When we met him it made the entire company make sense. ...... I sat there that morning and thought, hmmm, what am I? And I thought, I’m a venture capitalist; I’m A VC. ....... I’m not sure I could be a VC without the blog. You have to be out there in the hearts and minds of the entrepreneurs, and that’s the scarce resource with what we have as investors; it’s certainly not the money. ...... it angers me when I go to a Web page with a Flash video and I can’t watch it. Plus the whole porn thing. I’m a free speech bigot ..... I don’t like censorship ....... (Chatroulette) ... We met with him; he didn’t really know what he wanted to do with Chatroulette. I was eager to meet him, but after meeting him I didn’t get the impression that he knew what to do with it.
Fred is a nice person. I used that bland adjective on purpose. Even his niceness is the unassuming kind. As for him being not a story, I seriously doubt that. I would rather read a profile of Fred Wilson than that of most tech entrepreneurs in town, but I would rather not have to choose. There is no dearth of space in cyberspace, we can profile them all. Fred is one of the early people in town. He helped set the ball in motion. I once compared him to Scorsese. He is like a really good movie Director, only he is not a movie Director, he is in the venture capital business. He is really, really good at what he does. You can admire that excellence without being in the tech scene. But if you are in the tech scene, you will admire it even more.

He probably says no to 1,000 or maybe even 10,000 pitches made to him to every one pitch he says yes to. If he invests in two companies a year, and he gets maybe 250 pitches a week, even the 10,000 figure is an underestimate. That is the nature of the beast. Perhaps there has to be a better screening mechanism and he should not have to go through as many pitches. (The Panel Pile Up)


One on One: Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square
co-founder and chairman of Twitter, an angel investor in Foursquare and chief executive of Square ...... The goal is to build another utility like Twitter that will scale to any kind of usage. Anywhere from coffee shops or clothing retail stores, to someone selling their couch on Craigslist, or getting paid back from a friend. ...... The hardware is fairly simple, the software is extremely complex. ...... One of the most successful mobile payment continents in the world has been Africa. ..... Right now we’ve created a really easy way to get the information into Twitter. I think the next big challenge is helping get the information out in a relevant way. ...... I said a long time ago that Foursquare can make cities better. ... Foursquare has started to replace Yelp for me. .... (2010) .. Hopefully a lot more start-ups in New York City. I think the start-ups here are building a really great foundation. .... In terms of technology, we’re going to see a better and more immediate experience around the everyday things we do in life. For example, health care. I expect we’ll see a lot more innovation around health care after the latest initiative goes through Washington.

One on One: Anil Dash of Expert Labs
formerly of Six Apart, which created the popular blogging software Movable Type. Mr. Dash is now the director of Expert Labs, a Government 2.0 initiative that aims to connect United States government projects with citizens who want to become more involved in the political discussion. ....... Apes will always need to groom each other, and Twitter is great for that. So while Twitter is important, a lot of what it’s used for today is not new content. It’s re-Tweeting or sharing links to content outside of Twitter. Gestures like re-Tweeting or “liking” something on Facebook are more akin to applause than to dialogue. I don’t just write for applause, I like to write to start a dialogue. ........ They have iPhones and use Twitter. ...... Bit.ly ends in .ly, which is actually a Libyan domain name. ....... Before Apps.gov, it used to be a very laborious process to distribute applications to the federal government. Now, the entire process is actually more open than the iTunes App Store. It illustrates the huge radical shift that’s happening in what people call Government 2.0.
One on One: Brian Lam of Gizmodo.com
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