A Surprising Blog Post From Fred Wilson

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...Image via Wikipedia
Fred Wilson: Going Out On Top: Then, at the top of their game, LCD decided to call it quits. They played four shows this past week at Terminal 5, and then played their last show ever at The Garden last night. It's over now. As we watched the band put on a fantastic show last night, I was thinking about going out on top. So few manage to do it. Shaq is warming the bench in Boston. ..... The money and the burning desire to "win another one" drives the great ones to stick around too long. ..... I look at Warren Buffett and Rupert Murdoch and I see individuals still enjoying the work and delivering for their shareholders and investors into their 80s. ..... But I also look around the venture capital business and I see investors who were at the top of their games in the 90s struggling to remain relevant. ...... How do you know when you've done your last great startup? How do you know when you've done your last great investment? How do you know when you don't have the drive, hunger, and insights to keep delivering top performance? ...... Right now, coming off two weeks of totally relaxing vacation with my family, I find myself up early, thinking, writing, and planning. I don't sense it is yet time to hang up my cleats or walk of the stage like James Murphy did last night. But the thought is in my mind and I want it to stay there. The investment business is not easy. You are only as good as your last trade, fund, or year. And the venture capital business is particulary tricky. All the returns in the business accrue to the top ten or, at best, twenty percent of investors. When you lose your edge, your performance suffers, often badly. But it can take a decade for the rest of the world to notice because there is so much latency in the venture capital business.
My favorite solo blogger just surprised me like never before. The thought of "going out on top" seems to have crossed his mind.

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He picked a lazy Sunday to put it out. Apt.

It is not about money no more. He has enough hits under his belt - think Zynga, think Twitter, think Tumblr - that he is set for life in the money department. Fred came of age in the VC game when the world was still trying to figure out what this internet thing was all about. One of my favorite stories about Fred is that he envisioned something like Twitter before he actually came across the real thing and he said it was better than what he had imagined. This was at a point when 500K was a lot of money to the Twitter people.

He is too young to retire. I for one think he is too good to retire from the game. In some ways he is the most visible VC on the planet to those who breathe tech, in no small part due to his blog. It has been my long held fantasy to come across similar blogs by tech entrepreneurs.

He is too good at what he does to retire. But then maybe that is what he means by going out on "top." He is at the top of his game.

I did not see it but the first warning sign might have been when he started talking in terms of a bubble.

The super angel churn is also something that Fred at some level has struggled with.

There is no next Google. There is no next Facebook. There is no next Twitter. Has web tech become saturated? Web tech has been Fred's domain.

I think not. I think mobile tech has a serious five year run, if not more. And the app movement, if it can be called that, is real. I am a browser bigot, and that is a one app for all screen sizes kind of promise, but that asks for globally universal wireless broadband, something we don't even have in New York City, let alone across America and the world.

Fred "gets" the mobile web thing. I mean, he "got" Twitter and FourSquare, he is on to Kik. He has been strong on Android. Then what gives?

At some level Fred continues to be a web tech guy. Maybe he has not fully converted to the mobile space, spiritually speaking. Like me he talks in terms of the browser also ruling the mobile web. Bill Gates talked in terms of a tablet and a smart TV more than 10 years ago. He has been proven right. But back then those ideas of his were business failures. The browser will rule the mobile web as well, but that might not happen for a while. And at some level Fred perhaps is uncomfortable with the transition period, the apps period.

And Fred, by definition, is missing in action in clean tech, in bio tech, in nano tech and fin tech. Mobile tech is the most fertile subcategory in web tech, microfinance is the most fertile subcategory in fin tech. But then Michael Jordan did not play baseball, or soccer either. Wait, I did not mean to compare Fred to Jordan, although I do think he has been one of the very best in the business.

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Fred's domain has been early stage web tech. He wants to be the first to spot a Twitter or a Tumblr or a Zynga. He does not do a good job of "following." And there's no next Twitter, Tumblr or Zynga out there. What's there to spot?

Fred has "struggled" with high valuations of recent. I'd love to see Chris Dixon and Fred Wilson debate this topic for 90 minutes in video. That is an open topic. No one really has answers for a few more years.

Maybe this is just a passing thought. I sure hope he does not act on it. But if he does, I hope he stays active. He is too young to retire. Maybe he will launch a foundation to help women entrepreneurs. I know he sure is passionate about the topic.

I come from quite another angle. Fred mentions Warren Buffet and Rupert Murdoch. They have been working into their 80s. And that appeals to me. My contribution to Nepal's political revolution in 2006 was my "foundation work." My contribution to Obama 08 was my "foundation work." I already did my part.

I am pre-launch, early stage, bootstrapped. All I have to do is think about all those dollar a day people and I get reminded of the ocean of work for an industry, not just one company. At some level it feels to me like I just finished college and am trying to figure out what to do. I see decades of work ahead of me.

I have the perfect weight for my height. I am thin. But I still watch my weight. One reason is I wish to work long decades.

Faith, Family, Work.

A sabbatical would make sense. A foundation would make sense. Staying in the game would make sense. But retiring is not an option. My two cents.
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