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A New York VC Spotlight: Fred Wilson


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New York Venture Capitalists

Fred Wilson started his career as a venture capitalist in 1987 as an associate at Euclid Partners. However, he didn’t make his first investment until 1991. “The venture business is a bit of an apprenticeship business so the firm I worked for didn’t let me make an investment until I was 30,” he told The New York Times in 2010.

Wilson left Euclid Partners as a general partner in 1996, when he and Jerry Colonna started the venture capital firm, Flatiron Partners. They had many notable successes during the first dot.com era, including Geocities, VitaminShoppe.com, comScore and Alacra.  Flatiron Partners shut down in 2001, but Wilson remains a managing partner and handles the company’s remaining portfolio.

In 2004, Wilson co-founded Union Square Ventures with Brad Burnham, and is a managing partner. The company has had great success by investing in today’s many popular internet platforms, including Twitter, Tumbler, Etsy, Indeed, Zynga and Foursquare. The company’s focus is on information technology to create high growth business opportunities in the media, marketing, financial services, telecommunications, and healthcare industries with a focus on IT enabled services.

Wilson was named the #1 Venture Capitalist by Heardable in its 2012 report on the Top 50 leading brands in venture capital. Wilson holds a mechanical engineering degree from MIT and a MBA in finance from the Wharton School.

VC Firms:

Co-Founder and  Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures  (Founded in 2004)
Co-Founder of Flatiron Partners  in 1996 ( the company shut down in 2001)

Expertise areas:

Information Technology, Social Media and Social Media Platforms

Selected Investment:

Winners:

Tumblr sold to Yahoo for $1.1 billion
GeoCities sold to Yahoo for $3.5 billion
Del.icio.us sold to Yahoo for $30 million
FeedBurner sold to Google for $100 million
Tacoda sold to AOL for $275 million

Failures:

Waesabe (closed in 2010)

Boards:

TargetSpot, Inc
ReturnPath
DonorsChoose
Kik
Etsy

Expertise areas:

Information Technology, Social Media and Social Media Platforms

Blogs, Websites, and Twitter:

Twitter 
A VC – Fred’s blog
Union Square Ventures
Tumblog

Memorable Quotes:

After shutting down Flatiron Ventures “ Yeah, boy, we screwed up a bunch of things.”

On early venture stage venture capital: “Early stage venture capital is a lot like baseball: If you get a hit one out of every three times, you are headed to the Hall of Fame. And if I look back over my career, and also over the track records of the firms and funds I have helped manage, that is pretty much the hit rate I have seen.”

On Union Square Ventures’ investment struggles “Maybe we’re not good at picking companies, maybe we’re funding the 50th or 100th local-social-mobile startup when we should be funding cancer research. ”

On his career: “My venture investing career has three phases all roughly 6-8 years long. The first, at Euclid, was software to internet. The second, at Flatiron was internet to bubble. And the third, at USV, has been web 2 to mobile. I have always used a new firm to denote a new investment phase for me. Throw away the old. Start with the new.

After the 2008 recession: “It’s never pleasant to face the truth about darwinian capitalism. The bad companies die. But that harsh fact forces all of us who want to survive to evolve, adapt, and innovate. The time has come to leverage capital efficiency, not just to make it easy to do a startup, but to survive a downturn. Capital efficiency has found its moment and we must embrace and extend it.”

On blogging: “I’m not sure I could be a VC without the blog. You have to be out there in the hearts and minds of the entrepreneurs, and that’s the scarce resource with what we have as investors; it’s certainly not the money.

On investing: “I didn’t think I was a good investor for several years until I had to navigate my way out of the software bubble that burst around 2001. When I came out of that experience in 2003, I really felt like I’d figured the business out.”

On Silicon Valley: “The entire world is now a rival to Silicon Valley. No country, state, region, nor city has a lock on innovation in technology anymore.”

Click for more Venture Capitalists in New York.

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About the author: Patryk Znorkowski

Patryk Znorkowski studied journalism and psychology. He has an avid interest in emerging technology, their impact on society and is always looking for the next revolutionary idea.

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