Author: Fred Wilson

Bridge Loans



When fundraising gets tougher for startups, the existing investors (insiders) will often provide a bridge loan to the company to extend the runway for getting another round done. There is more of this sort of thing happening in today’s fundraising market and I thought I’d share some of the things I have learned about setting up bridge loans.

First, bridge loans are a bridge to something else. Most commonly they are a bridge to a round of financing with new investors (outsiders). They can also be a bridge to the sale of the company. Occasionally, but not often, they can be a bridge to getting cash flow positive. If none of those things is going to happen in a relatively short period of time, then it is a bridge to nowhere and you really want to avoid that. A bridge to another bridge is never a good thing and should be avoided at all costs.

An alternative to a bridge is an “insider round” where the existing investors provide sufficient capital to fund the business for eighteen to twenty-four months. That is a real round of financing and it is not a bridge. While that can sometimes be the right answer for a startup, I strongly prefer bringing new investors/new capital into a company in every financing round. New investors strengthen the investor syndicate which makes the company more resilient. New investors bring new ideas, new experiences, and new sources of funding to the business. New investors in every round (Read more...)

Innovation Indicators


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


Tech:NYC is the industry association for NY’s tech sector. They play a number of important roles and one of them is to educate and inform about the impact of the tech sector in NY. To that end, they launched a valuable resource last month called Innovation Indicators.

Innovation Indicators is a dashboard that shows the latest data on the impact of the tech sector on the NY economy. Here is some of the data you will find there:

Innovation Indicators will be updated regularly and will be a valuable resource to entrepreneurs, academics, policymakers, journalists, and anyone else who is interested in the development and growth of the tech sector in NY.



USV TEAM POSTS:

Remote, Hybrid, or In-Person?



We have been watching our portfolio of ~130 technology companies wrestle with this decision for the last two and a half years. Brought on by the covid pandemic and the work from home moment that it created, there has been a sea change in the way that technology companies organize themselves to get work done.

Ben Horowitz observed this in a piece last week where he described A16Z’s decision to embrace a hybrid model that he called “HQ in the Cloud.”

It turns out that running a technology company remotely works pretty darned well. It’s not perfect, but mitigating the cultural issues associated with remote work turns out to be easier than mitigating the employee satisfaction issues associated with forcing everyone into the office 5 days/week. 

https://a16z.com/2022/07/21/a16z-is-moving-to-the-cloud/

Most people are happier having a lot of flexibility around where they work. We have seen that people who are raising families have benefitted from the flexibility of working closer to where their families are and the ability to be somewhere quickly. But that is only one example of why flexibility around where you work is so powerful. Many job functions require, or at least benefit from, the ability to concentrate without interruption or distraction. A quiet home office is vastly better than a busy open workspace for that kind of work.

And then there is the commute. I am writing this on a commuter train heading into NYC. For a time in my life, I took a train like this (Read more...)

Valuing a Venture Capital Portfolio


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


Every quarter our firm goes through a process to value our entire portfolio. Those values, on a schedule of investments we publish to our investors every quarter, flow through to our financial statements and capital accounts and establish how much an interest in our partnerships are worth at that time.

We have always taken this process very seriously and approach it with a lot of rigor. Every partner is highly engaged with this process. Although we have a fantastic financial team at USV, we do not simply outsource valuing the portfolio to them because we understand that those who are closest to the portfolio companies will have the best view of what they are worth.

We have a few rules and I would like to share them:

– Be conservative. The auditors try to get us to mark our portfolio up to reflect “market prices” but we prefer to keep our portfolio marked below market prices, particularly in times of market froth. This leads to a fair bit of haggling with our auditors that is mostly a waste of everyone’s time but we feel that it is important to maintain our conservative posture.

– Get Ahead of Market Pullbacks. We like to move quickly to take our marks down when we see the market environment changing. Public stocks often lead private valuations by several quarters so we like to look to public market comparables and mark down quickly.

– Never Mark Higher Than Potential Sale Value. Every time we have (Read more...)

Some Thoughts On Twitter (continued)


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


I wrote the post at the bottom and linked here when Elon Musk announced his intention to buy Twitter in late April. I am relieved that Musk has decided he does not want to own Twitter. I never thought he would be a good shepherd of the Twitter network and maybe now we have the opportunity to find a better ownership/governance model for it.

I understand why the Twitter Board and management team feel they must force Musk to perform on the agreed-upon deal. They have shareholders to protect and an obligation to do what is best for them. If Musk really does not want to own Twitter and is not just trying to renegotiate the deal, then eventually both sides will come to some settlement that enriches Twitter and lets Musk out of the deal. That will likely be a lot more than the $1bn breakup fee. I hope that we don’t end up with Musk owning Twitter at a lower price. That would be a bad outcome for the shareholders and for the Twitter network.

I would like to see the Twitter Board and management team continue to press Musk to perform on the deal, and at the same time start working on a plan to decentralize Twitter and move it to the thing it has always wanted to be which is a core communications protocol for the Internet. A first step in that direction would to broadly re-open the API and allow third-party clients to be built (Read more...)

The New AVC


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


AVC has been around for nineteen years and it has evolved over the years from a place I’d post multiple times a day to once a day to now once a week. There was a time when there was a vibrant comment community at AVC with many posts getting over a hundred comments and replies. That’s long gone and now it is just me posting here with some chatter occasionally on Twitter.

As anyone who has tried knows, posting every day is a mighty big commitment. I am relieved to have given that up, gradually, a few years ago.

What is left at AVC is a place where I can write when I have something to say that I want to say out loud. That last bit is important because there are many things I will say privately these days but not publicly. At this stage of my life, AVC is for conversations that are helpful, productive, and constructive. Everything else can happen elsewhere.

The entire catalog of AVC posts remains online and can be accessed in the archives. If anyone wants to see the progression, it is right there out in the open for anyone to see. The comments are there too for the posts that have them.

The AVC archives are a journey through the evolution of social media. From an experiment in the early 2000s, to a happening in the late 2000s, to mainstream in the early 2010s, to a mess in the late 2010s, to (Read more...)

The Case For EVs


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


The Gotham Gal and I own five EVs and have been driving electric-powered cars since 2014. I don’t drive gas-powered cars and haven’t for a few years now. We have purchased two Chevy Bolts, two Tesla Model Ss, and one Rivian truck.

I love the instant acceleration you get from an EV, I enjoy driving mostly with just one foot due to the fact that EVs accelerate and brake using the accelerator pedal, I like that I can charge my car every night at home (using solar panels on our roofs) and don’t have to go to the gas station anymore, and I like that the maintenance costs and hassle are much lower with an EV. There is certainly an environmental benefit from driving EVs, but in my view, EVs are also better cars (and trucks).

But EVs remain expensive and “risky” for most folks and only 9% of global car sales are electric and that percentage is smaller in the US (more like 5%).

So how do we change that?

With gas prices sky-high, policymakers are looking to do something about the cost of driving. They are talking about short-term solutions like gas tax holidays that will do little to reduce the price of gas. I believe they should spend that money on longer-term solutions that will accelerate the conversion to EVs and reduce our reliance on the fossil fuel industry.

So what would those things be? Here is a list:

1/ A government-backed loan program (like student loans) (Read more...)

Staying Positive


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


The last six months have been a challenging time for tech and tech startups. Macro events have weighed on the sector, valuations have come crashing down, revenue growth has slowed (or stopped), and layoffs are happening across the sector.

Many of the folks I work with are frustrated. The things that were working in their business stopped working and they can’t get it moving again. They are struggling to project the business and plan for the year and next year. They feel terrible about letting so many great people go and blame themselves for it.

It helps to work with many companies in times like this. We see this happening almost everywhere. And so we have some perspective. Yes, it is our collective fault for getting out over our skis during the good times and not seeing tougher times ahead. Yes, we could have and should have been more conservative with our growth plans and hiring. Yes, it is our fault for putting our companies in the position where they have to let go of so many people.

But it is also the case that the number one thing in times like this is staying in the game so you can play another round. You don’t want to go bust right now. So it is time to take your lumps, learn some valuable lessons from them, and move on.

It is also time to stay positive. When you are the leader of a company (or anything else), you have to (Read more...)

The Partnership



I have worked in three venture capital firms in the thirty-six years I have been doing venture capital investing. They have all been small partnerships, between three and seven investing partners, where there is little to no hierarchy amount the partners.

There are many models out there for building and managing investment firms. They vary from a single partner to an organization structure that looks like a Fortune 500 company. There is no best way to structure an investment firm.

But for early-stage investing, I believe that the small flat partnership is the best structure if the goal is to produce high return on capital funds. Here are some reasons why this model is superior for early-stage investing:

  • At the early stage, investors must bet on teams and ideas that have not been proven. The biggest winners almost always come from the investments that are the most controversial and “out there”. A small tight partnership where there is a lot of trust between the partners is a place where you can make a lot of these kinds of investments.
  • Being a lead investor in a company you start working with when it is very young (sub 10 employees) and remain actively involved with until exit can take a decade or more of work. Staying aligned as a partnership on the company and supportive of it is hard to do but incredibly important if you want the best outcome. That is hard, if not impossible if the investing team is large, (Read more...)

The Gillibrand Lummis Bill


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


New York Senator Gillibrand and Wyoming Senator Lummis have teamed up to propose a bi-partisan bill that would shift much of the regulatory oversight of crypto assets from the SEC to the CFTC, acknowledging that these tokens are much more like commodities than securities.

The details of the bill will be made public today and will then there will be a lot of feedback from elected officials, regulators, and industry. It is not certain that this bill will become law and if it does, it is not certain that it will look anything like the initial bill.

But even so, I am very encouraged by this development. Crypto tokens are a foundational element of web3, a technology architecture that allows for decentralized applications which lessen the control of big tech monopolies on our lives and our data, and that allows for users to own their data and a share of the networks that the applications are built on. Constraining these user tokens as securities is not only incorrect but also would inhibit much of their utility and therefore the potential for web3 to remake the technology industry as is desperately needed.

So I applaud the work of Senators Gillibrand and Lummis and their staffs. They are making an important statement with this bill and I believe that this is a big step in the right direction.



USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — May 30, 2022
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