union square ventures

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I had a great day yesterday thanks to the Internet.  TechCrunch Disrupt was held in NYC again and streamed live. For freezle. Fred Wilson (AVC.com) of Union Square Ventures started things off interviewed by TechCrunch veteran Erick Schonfeld and Fred offered some gems on venture investing.  Union Square has invested in Twitter, Etsy, Disqus, Foursquare, Tumblr and Zynga, lately making Kleiner Perkins appear standing still.

Some Fred thoughts:

  • It’s better to be an anthropologist than technologist in venture capital.
  • Social, global, mobile and cloud are the key trends.
  • We invest in the cultural revolution.
  • We like people who have a deep obsession over a long period of time.

Dennis Crowley of Foursquare was there and smart. Chris Dixon an investor and edge burnisher was a panelist. Michael Arrington, three quarters funny, interviewed his boss Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL. Between speakers and panelists, there were green room interviews – a very nice touch.  Back in the day (a year or two ago) if you tried to stream something like this, it would have been a herky jerky mess.  Not now.  Not with Ustream. The afternoon was a start-up jump ball in front of other entrepreneurs and VCs, some of which I watched but found to be a bit below the morning program.

The event rocked.  And speaking of rock, in the 70s and 80s in NYC, it was the rock star start-ups who were rock stars.  Now they are tech dudes. The art is different, the drug is Red Bull and the output is hard to dance and hum to — but tech is really bringing NYC back. Plus there was a big East Coast/West Coast thing going at the event, too.

If you can attend next year…or if you can’t but can clear the decks to watch the stream, do it. There’s money to be learned. Peace.

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NY venture capitalist Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures posted yesterday about how venture firms often follow the herd.  If social networks are hot, VCs look for a new good one. Mobile apps? They find someone second to the party, but who tells a fine story.  Mr. Wilson believes this is too safe and in being too safe it is not safe at all.

 Mr. Wilson is, drum roll, successful.  He is because he “fails harder” as Dan Wieden of Wieden + Kennedy says. Or “falls forward fast” as Joe Nacchio used to say.   Mr. Wilson is smart, hard working but most importantly unafraid to look to the future. He goes where the herd will be. Where the herd is is a little stinky –albeit an active breeding ground. Mr. Wilson looks for clean air.

Brand Planning.

Good brand planning and good VC investment share this “ahead of the herd” mentality. When I present a great branding idea there is often an odd look in the eyes of the decision maker.  It’s part smile, part fear.  The smile connotes I get them.  The fear can result from a few things but usually it’s the unknown.  When presenting to Newsday the brand idea “we know where you live,” they thought it too intrusive, maybe a bit creepy. But it was their differentiator. They added a little water and bought it.  For a health care system the strategy “a systematized approach to improving healthcare” felt cold and calculating.  Finally they agree as long as we didn’t use the “s” word, we were good.  They came to grips with the fact that they were a system. Herds are safe. Bold wins out. Peace!

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