Back and Ahead


This post is by Ian Hathaway from Ian Hathaway


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I started out 2019 on the blog by looking back at last year: my posting activity, traffic patterns, and which posts were the most popular. I posted 29 entries last year, which is around 2.4 per month or about one post every other week. The maximum was 6 posts (in November) and in three months I wrote nothing (in June, July, and September). The median was 3 posts.

I’d like to be much better about posting this year—not just frequency but consistency. I write on a number of other platforms and am working on a few major projects right now—including crashing towards a deadline for a book manuscript. I also tend to write lengthy and analytical (data-driven) pieces, which means it simply takes longer to produce content (did I mention already that I’m pretty busy doing other things?).

But, I don’t want that to be an excuse, so

either need to (a) re-prioritize this blog as a central part of my job, (b) change the mix of content so that I can reasonable achieve the goal of having a consistent cadence of posting, or (c) both of these (isn’t that always the case?). I’m game to try other forms of content, such as newsletters (something I’ve been enjoying more this year), which works as a form of aggregation and ideation all at once. I read a lot, so, this could be valuable for my readers. It’ll be interesting to look back a year from now and see how this all shook out.

I also looked at what was popular content in 2019. Here is a graph:

Throwing out the two Blog and About landing pages, it looks like an even split between analytical and what I call commentary posts. Most of the former are venture-data-related and most of the latter are about startups and geography. That’s not a surprise, because, that’s what my upcoming book with Brad Feld, The Startup Community Way, is all about.

I’m going to recap a few of these:

  • The More of Everything Problem: I’m surprised to see this at number one, but I’m glad it’s there. This is a theme that’s going to be central in my book with Brad. People who want to build great startup communities (or “ecosystems” as most people call them) often make the same errors, to the point where they are really archetypes around this stuff. One of them is taking a quantity- or resource-driven approach. A fundamentally more effective approach to building startup communities is one of resource integration rather than resource accumulation; bring existing resources together more effectively, rather than adding more of everything.

  • Platform Giants and Venture-Backed Startups: I’ll put this under the “weighing in on a hot-button issue by doing something specifically narrow (and explicitly stating that) and watching the ideological nature of people, and the laziness of Twitter (where people don’t read the actual article anymore), take that message and run wild with it” category. I simply said that analyses claiming the giant tech platforms are having “no impact” on the venture funding landscape are bullshit. Because they are. I did not say a whole range of things that people wanted me to have said. That was fun to watch. (It’s worth reading this Fred Wilson follow-up post).

  • Silicon Valley is Not Over: too many people are hoping for or overselling the demise of Silicon Valley. The first one is stupid and destructive; the second one is shitty forecasting at best and shameless self-promotion at worst. Silicon Valley is here to stay and that’s a good thing. More cities are going to participate in the innovation economy, but that will be limited in scope. A broader set will be marginal players (and that’s ok!). Silicon Valley will grow in importance or at least maintain it, in the future, even if it expands elsewhere even faster.

  • Early-Stage Valuation Multiples Are Coming Way Down. What Does it Mean?: This post is more of a chart book on funding trends and valuations than anything else. But it does have a point of view, namely that we’re undergoing a pullback in the early-stage funding market. I caught a lot of flack on this one, particularly from some VCs who felt that my data was missing some key insights or that I don’t know what I’m talking about because—gasp!—I’m not actually a VC. But, putting those details aside (some legitimate, others not), I’m right about this and time will only validate that statement. Interest rates are rising, markets are getting more volatile, the economy is softening, and the United States will face a constitutional crisis not seen since perhaps the Civil War. I’ll set the alarm for five years from now when nobody cares about this anymore, and quietly pat myself on the back.

Two other posts that I liked from this year, which were written for The Wall Street Journal and the Harvard Business Review (but cross-posted here).

Both were co-authored with my good friend Richard Florida, following a major study we did on global venture capital flows during the last decade. Working with, and getting to know Richard better was one of the highlights of my year. In addition to being a really nice and fascinating guy, I love the way his mind works. He has a rare ability to see things unlike few people I have ever worked with or known.

Here’s to another great year of writing—hopefully my best one yet.