Sessions @ The Leonardo with Fred Wilson, Brad Burnham, Albert Wenger, John Buttrick and Andy Weissman
Details on the next Session @ The Leonardo are now live.
This is going to be a fun one.
In 2005, I made my first trip to NYC as a newly minted co-founder of OATV. The second meeting I had on that trip was a lunch with Fred Wilson and Brad Burnham.
At the time they were underdogs in an underserved market. Fred had just come off winding down his prior firm and Brad was spinning out of his role at AT&T Ventures. NYC was still reeling from a dot com hang over and Silicon Alley shellacking.
Over lunch Brad and Fred were gracious in sharing their experience and connections with us from their recent forays into fundraising. We found a connection around investment themes and have had various opportunities to work together since.
At the time of our lunch Twitter, Tumblr, Zynga, Etsy, Indeed, Foursquare and so many of their current success were only glimmers in their collective eyes. Since that lunch, they’ve not only put up some of the most impressive financial returns of any fund in our industry, they’ve simultaneously built a firm that has transformed the venture business and played a key role in propelling NYC to the forefront of global startup communities.
In this Session @ The Leonardo we have the truly unique opportunity to have each partner of the USV team on stage to share their experience as investors and their thinking on emergent startup communities and investment trends. Brad, Fred, Albert, John, and Andy are really special people that I’m fortunate to call friends. After this event I’m sure you’ll see why.
Space is limited for this event so please RSVP today.
As always, you can propose questions to be asked during the Session here.
Let me begin by saying I’m no Oprah. This was the first time I’ve interviewed someone.
Our chat covered a wide range of topics. And the good folks at The Leonardo were kind enough to record, edit and put it online.
In Part 1, embedded above, we set the stage for our conversation an dive into why he hasn’t invested in Utah bases companies as well as his perspective on what makes the Bay Area work in contrast to other regions. He also dissects a few specific examples based on what he’s seen from local companies.
In Part 2 we dive deeper into how he works as a VC and he shares stories behind how specific investment decisions were made and what actions some of his portfolio companies made on their path to success and failure.
I’m deeply grateful for Vinod taking time out for this chat and hope some of you may find it interesting too.
I couldn’t help but contrast Ellen’s experience and initial ambitions with the experience of fellow comedian, Jim Carey, who famously wrote himself a future check of $10M for “Acting Services Rendered”.
Two very different paths, very similar destination.
We often hear stories of people who start companies to change the world or make a dent in the universe. And that’s wonderful, and noble and it, occasionally, works according to that plan and that ambition.
Then there are others who start with no grand plan, no visions of world domination. Maybe they just hate having a boss, or have some itch to scratch.
Whether it’s Ellen or Jim or World Dominator or Boss Hater they all share something in common.
The idea behind the service won’t sound novel to most readers here, but to non-net natives it may be one that needs to be approached with caution.
The opportunity for this new service emerged out of SeeClickFix’s core business- reporting and routing non-emergency problems to city government officials for repair.
As city budgets have tightened and staff sizes decrease, many cities are finding a healthy backlog of repairs that need to be made or projects their residents would like to see happen. Unfortunately, for many of these projects, the money is simply not available.
Concurrently, there’s been a rise in awareness and excitement around using crowdfunding for backing everything from art and technology projects to startups to providing working capital for growing businesses.
Seeing the rise of crowd funding and this growing backlog within cities, last year the team at SeeClickFix set out on a series of pilots to fund small projects around their native New Haven. The first was a project to makeover a dark and dilapidated highway underpass with an art installation. Not something the city would ever allocate dollars for, but the citizens of the city did. And, over the course of a month long fundraising campaign residents were able to pool enough dollars to make the project happen.
Since that initial art project several, more practical, projects have funded such as additional city benches and bike racks around town.
The vote in Raleigh was a close one, getting struck down by a final of 4-4. It Seems the primary point of discomfort was around neighborhood equality.
From the city councilwoman:
Baldwin also said said she isn’t comfortable with the issue of neighborhood equality. Wealthy neighborhoods would have more money to spend on neighborhood projects while less affluent neighborhoods would not.
As a general rule, we love investments that make people, like Councilwoman Baldwin, uncomfortable.
However, the counter was also raise that successfully funded projects in wealthier neighborhoods would free up other dollars:
Gaylord said he doesn’t think equality would be a big issue. He reasoned that if wealthy neighborhoods took on the cost of small projects, such action would free up city funds for projects in other parts of the city.
I agree with councilman Gaylord on the distribution of city dollars. But, I’m also a believer that compelling projects in less wealthy neighborhoods can, and will, attract dollars from those outside of their own zip codes. As with most crowd funding campaigns, these projects can be opened to anyone, anywhere to back. Given the right tools, I think they’d be surprised at the results the creativity and networks of their citizens can produce.
I’m really excited to watch SeeClickFix try and cut through the red tape and constrains of cities around the country and hope to see other city councils move forward with pilots.
I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.
When 2012 began, I had high hopes for the new year.
Early on I sketched out a set of goals and objectives I wanted to accomplish. Throughout the course of the year I was able to check off nearly all of those goals: close the new fund, check. replace my wife’s 10 y/o, 150,000 mi car with something new (to us), check. And many other too personal to list here. Check. Check. Check.
There were a few that didn’t get checked off too.
As I sit here taking inventory of those thing we got done and those we didn’t I’m struck by just how much can change in a year. Despite a very thoughtfully laid out plan for 2012 there were so many things that happened throughout the year that I could have never factored in. New people entered my life in 2012 that changed my life tremendously. New living situations opened doors and brought happiness I didn’t even think to anticipate.
Several of the year’s goals seemed utterly insurmountable in January. Those were all checked off. A few of the year’s goals I thought were near forgone conclusions. Most of those failed to conclude.
For me, 2012 highlights once again just how much can change in a year.
In one year you can go from being darlings of the media to being left for dead in the gutters on Wall St. Or, written off as a throwback photo service with no hopes for revenue to a billion dollar darling. Or, have a strong market tailwind turn to a blustery headwind. Or, rise from relative obscurity to 1 billion Youtube views (actually, that only took 6 months). Or, from being a near daily writer to barely getting a post out a week (guilty!).
I’m certain 2013 holds just as many uncertain and unplan-able surprises.
Whether you’re starting the new year at the highest of highs or lowest of lows, know that one year can change almost anything. Be open to, and grab those changes as they come.
Happy New Year y’all.
Yeah, I’m biased but this has to be the hottest artwork accompanying a NYT article in a long time.
Related- Timehop in the Sunday Times!
When I moved back to SLC this summer, I wanted to do a few things around town to encourage and unite some of the entrepreneurial energy that this place has. Having begun my career here, I’ve seen many of the same local events survive longer than I’d been involved in the startup scene, but none of them ever really appealed to me.
So, I’ve decided to break one of Brad’s golden rules of startup communities and start a new series for local founders and entrepreneurs I’m calling Sessions @ The Leonardo.
Fortunately, the wonderful team at The Leonardo has volunteered their support for this little experiment and I’m grateful to them for that. If you’re not familiar with what The Leonardo is, I’d encourage you to take a look, get a membership and begin to throw some support their way as I believe they will be the cultural center of gravity for tech, art and science here in Utah.
My hope with Sessions is to create an event I wished were around when I was just getting started as a career-long entrepreneur. The idea behind Sessions is to have a monthly “fireside chat” with a new roster of big thinkers and doers in technology, venture capital, design, branding and general entrepreneurship. These will be casual in setting and current in terms of content. Sometimes our speakers will be locals, but more often than not they will be outsiders who have a fresh perspective and network to share with those attending.
There will be no award shows, no banquets and no black ties.
Below are details on the first event we will be hosting next Thurs from 8-10pm @ The Leonardo with Vinod Khosla.
You can RSVP for the even here (space is super limited so act fast).
On Thursday December 20th I’ll be hosting a “fireside” chat with legendary venture capitalist Vinod Khosla at The Leonardo (in downtown SLC) from 8pm to 10pm.
I first met Vinod a a few years ago. That first meeting began as a simple get-to-know-you which stretched into a multiple-hour conversation covering his history as a founder, as a VC and as a father raising a family of four children. As I left that meeting, I couldn’t help but think how valuable it would have been for younger me to have been a fly on that wall to hear how Vinod thinks and works.
My hope for the night is to capture some of what we discussed in that meeting and give you a glimpse into the mind of one of the great investors of our time.
If you’re not familiar with Vinod, a brief description of his background. Raised in India, educated at IIT in Dehli, Carnegie Melon and Stanford. He was an entrepreneur from his earliest days in India, and founded a failed soy milk company. Upon graduating from Stanford with his MBA, he co-founded Daisey Systems and Sun Microsystems.
In 1986 he joined Kleiner Perkins as a Partner and went on to be one of the first investors in Nexgen, Juniper, Excite and Cerent.
In 2004, on his own dime, he started Khosla Ventures to fund “science experiments” tackling some of the world’s largest problems in alternative energy, education, petroleum independence, and the environment. He’s also a prolific writer, often penning pieces that share his most current thinking on investment themes.
His provocative thinking set him apart from so many in his industry and I think his perspective as a silicon valley veteran who plays by his own rules will be extremely interesting and beneficial to Utah-based founders and entrepreneurs.
PS- there will not be an open mic for Q&A at the event, but you can submit questions you’d like VK to answer HERE.
We’ll try to cover as many of them as we can.