Category: life lessons

Tourists vs Purists


This post is by Om Malik from On my Om


photo of paris cityscape with the eiffel tower during night time
Photo by Nicolas on Pexels.com

I was saddened by the passing of young and exciting new designer Virgil Abloh. He was so young and fresh in his thinking about pop culture and how it intersected with fashion. I had met him a while ago at the launch of the Apple Watch, and we talked about sneakers and pop culture. It was not difficult to get in a conversation with him. I have followed his work from the time he worked with Kanye West. In his obituaries, this one paragraph from the accompanying text for his exhibition, Figures of Speech stood out.

Tourist and purist, that’s my main device to understand the sections of culture, that move culture forward. You have a purist, that’s like, I know the whole art history of everything, you can’t do this, this was done 20-times before you thought of it. Like, this is the pure institution. Then there’s the tourist, who’s bright-eyed, curiosity-driven, that has a lust for learning, and they support whatever.

In an interview with Vogue, Abloh elaborated in even simpler terms:

“It’s my organizing principle for my point of view when I make things. A tourist is someone who’s eager to learn, who wants to see the Eiffel Tower when they come to Paris. The purist is the person who knows everything about everything.”

I have written in the past — the hardest thing for me is to unlearn everything to make room for new things in my thinking. This organizing principle (Read more...)

Getting Together In Person


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


After skipping a year last year, USV held its annual team party last night.

It has felt great getting back to getting together with friends, family, and co-workers this holiday season. It has meant a lot of rapid testing for me, all negative thankfully, including one this morning.

We also had every single team member in the USV office yesterday, which was a first since we fully re-opened in March of this year.

And for our weekly team meeting yesterday, we had everyone around the conference room table. Nobody on Zoom. I can’t remember the last time that was the case.

I’ve been doing in-person board dinners and in-person board meetings a lot lately as well.

While Zoom has certainly transformed the way we work and I don’t expect that we will ever go back to everything in-person, the last few months of getting back together in groups has reminded me how important the human connection is to life, love, and work.

I met with a founder yesterday and he told me that his executive team gets together in person once a quarter. I encouraged him to get the exec team together in person at least once a month, if not more frequently. It is hard to be a tight team, that gives and takes, debates and commits, and moves fast in sync without the in-person connection.

We have a great team at USV and we did great working remotely during the pandemic, but being back in the office since (Read more...)

Getting Together In Person


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


After skipping a year last year, USV held its annual team party last night.

It has felt great getting back to getting together with friends, family, and co-workers this holiday season. It has meant a lot of rapid testing for me, all negative thankfully, including one this morning.

We also had every single team member in the USV office yesterday, which was a first since we fully re-opened in March of this year.

And for our weekly team meeting yesterday, we had everyone around the conference room table. Nobody on Zoom. I can’t remember the last time that was the case.

I’ve been doing in-person board dinners and in-person board meetings a lot lately as well.

While Zoom has certainly transformed the way we work and I don’t expect that we will ever go back to everything in-person, the last few months of getting back together in groups has reminded me how important the human connection is to life, love, and work.

I met with a founder yesterday and he told me that his executive team gets together in person once a quarter. I encouraged him to get the exec team together in person at least once a month, if not more frequently. It is hard to be a tight team, that gives and takes, debates and commits, and moves fast in sync without the in-person connection.

We have a great team at USV and we did great working remotely during the pandemic, but being back in the office since (Read more...)

Partnerships


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


Like many did, we spent much of this weekend watching Peter Jackson’s wonderful documentary of the Beatles making Let It Be, titled Get Back.

I enjoyed so much of the film, particularly the music, but the big thing I took away is the power of real partnerships. While this was the Beatles last recording session, what you see in the film are four partners working together creatively and wonderfully. I wasn’t really expecting that and I found it so enjoyable to watch.

I have worked in partnerships for most of my adult life, since I was in my mid 20s. I have spent 35 years in three partnerships, all of them “equal partnerships”, the kind where everyone brings their own ideas, they are worked on together, and there is mutual respect and admiration.

Partnerships are not easy. Everyone has to dial back their ego a bit and let others have their say on things. But what you get when you do that is an environment where everyone gets better than they would be on their own. And you can see that in the Beatles work. All of the four Beatles went on to have solo careers, but none of them produced a sustained level of work that the four of them were able to make together.

Watching Paul, John, George, and Ringo work together for a month to make an incredible record was a reminder that when we sacrifice a little bit of our self and commit to a team (Read more...)

Giving Thanks


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


Like most holidays we celebrate, the essence of the Thanksgiving holiday hides underneath our celebration of it.

Ask anyone about Thanksgiving, and you will hear about turkey, stuffing, a big meal, family, and maybe football.

I’m fine with all of that, particularly the stuffing and family parts.

But the thing that I like most about Thanksgiving is the idea that this is a time of year to give thanks.

The story I heard is that the first Thanksgiving was done to give thanks to the bounty of the harvest. That makes sense to me given the time of year in late fall.

But regardless of why this tradition started, I am a big fan of a day set aside to be thankful.

And I am very thankful this year. Here are some reasons:

1/ We are starting to learn to live with Covid. Between vaccinations, testing, therapeutics, behavior modifications, and more, we are starting to understand the risks and the protections that allow us to live with a virus run amok. The Gotham Gal and I traveled to Paris and back earlier this month and we were able to enjoy a city we love while the virus was still very much a thing in both NYC and Paris. I am starting to attend more and more board meetings in person. The USV office has been open since March and our team enjoys being able to work together face to face. I get to go to MSG, the greatest arena in (Read more...)

Diversification


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


I am a fan of and a practioner of investing in risky assets. I believe you must take significant risk to earn significant returns.

But I also am a huge fan of diversification when holding a lot of risky assets. It has been easier for USV to get into new sectors, like crypto and climate for example, knowing that we also have large positions in other parts of the early stage tech sector.

When crypto went crazy in 2017 and then blew up, it was mostly a blip in our portfolio values. The same was true in the second quarter of this year when crypto had a big pullback.

This is not an argument against crypto only funds. USV has invested in a number of them and so have the Gotham Gal and I. But I would not be comfortable with a portfolio that was only crypto funds. I like to have a mix of assets, ideally uncorrelated, in our portfolio.

An asset class that I really like as a hedge against early stage tech sector risk is real estate. The Gotham Gal and I own a lot of income producing real estate and it feels very uncorrelated to early stage tech.

But there are many ways to get diversification. If you don’t want to think about your investments, something I cannot bring myself to do, then a stock index fund or a portfolio of stock index funds, and some fixed income funds can get you the diversification you need. (Read more...)

Sixty Years


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


Today is my sixtieth birthday and I plan to goof off with friends and family all day and night in celebration. If I don’t respond to an email, text, or tweet, well that’s because I’m celebrating.

I’ve been told that turning 60 is a big one and to expect to feel a lot. I will make sure to do that but as many know, it is not my nature to do that. So I will have to work at it.

I have cut back on blogging a lot in the last year. Four posts a week on AVC is now a lot. Many weeks there are only three. I’m hoping that the quality has gone up as the quantity has come down. At least that is the goal.

I’ve caught a second (or maybe third or fourth) wind with my work in the last year. It is a combination of covid, climate, and crypto. The world is changing and there is so much energy being released from these changes that draws me back. At sixty, it is a different kind of work; less hustle and more conviction. I like that.

As the Gotham Gal and I enter our fifth decade together, I am struck by how much we have become one. We often say the same thing to each other at the same moment. A mind meld.

As I told my partner Albert this morning on text, I am a very fortunate person. Life has given me many blessings. I (Read more...)

Leaving Well


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


I have watched countless companies and leadership teams manage transitions over the years and I have come to believe that companies and leaders should do everything they can to promote “leaving well.”

What I mean by “leaving well” is a smooth transition of a leader out of a role/company. This typically means that a departing leader gives a company a heads up that they are planning to transition out, that news is shared broadly internally, allowing for a transparent process to find a new leader. A similar process is used to transition a leader out when a new one is needed.

For this to work, companies need to do their part to facilitate this process. This means reacting well to the news that an executive would like to move on. It can also include a financial incentive to stick around during a transition. A culture that embraces leaving well puts everyone in a better place during transitions.

There are certainly times when leaving well is not possible. If an executive is terminated for reasons that require an immediate departure, there is no way to execute a smooth transition.

It is also the case that an executive could get an offer that requires an immediate start date that they feel that they have to accept. This is exactly the kind of thing a tradition and culture of leaving well is designed to prevent. Generally speaking, it is preferable to run a process to find your next role versus accepting an offer (Read more...)

The Walk Away Move


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


The Gotham Gal and I are watching Succession after being told by so many friends and family members that we had to see it. We are in season two and last night we watched an episode where Logan Roy tries to acquire a family-owned media business. The selling family, led by the mother, tells him they will do the deal if he names his daughter Shiv as his successor. Logan explains that is not how he does things and that he will name his successor on his time and terms. The mother explains it is a requirement of the deal. And so Logan leaves the meeting without closing the deal.

On his arrival back in NYC Logan hears that the selling family has “caved” and will do the deal without a named successor.

The walk-away move is a bold one and does not always lead to winning on your terms. It can cause you to lose the deal.

But I am a fan of the walk-away move because it shows the other party that you are not going to move on your offer anymore and forces a hard decision instead of endless negotiating, which I personally don’t like.

I am often counseled to keep talking and relax. But I find walking away to be very effective if done at the right time and after being very reasonable until then. It is a very powerful way to send a message.



USV TEAM POSTS:

Grit, Resilience and Determination


This post is by Fred Wilson from AVC


I am returning to a topic that I have talked a lot about on this blog.

A number of years ago at our annual CEO Summit, we had Angela Duckworth speak to our portfolio about Grit, the topic of her excellent book on the subject. In Angela’s research, she determined that the single greatest determinant of success was not talent. It was grit.

I was reminded of that last night as I watched Derek Rose lead the New York Knicks to a must win in game two of their series against the Atlanta Hawks. The Knicks were a mess for the first half of the game and Derek Rose singlehandedly kept them in the game.

Derek Rose was the first pick in the 2008 draft and by 2011 he became the youngest NBA player to win the Most Valuable Player award, something he accomplished at age 23. A year later he tore his ACL and he has struggled with injuries ever since.

In the middle of this season, the Knicks acquired Derek Rose from the Detroit Pistons and soon thereafter he came down with Covid and missed several weeks.

But after Derek Rose came back from Covid in the last seventeen games of the season, the Knicks won thirteen of those games and landed in fourth place in the East.

And last night, he was the heart and soul of the Knicks. He kept them in the game until his teammates woke up, and he led the team in (Read more...)