Greylock


30
Jul 11

50k

Yesterday my Twitter follower count ticked over 50,000 for the first time. And while I wouldn’t exactly call that a lifetime achievement or milestone, it has caused me to reflect a little bit on Twitter specifically and the Internet more generally, so I thought I would write down some of those thoughts here.

Off the top, let me say this: I really love Twitter. A lot. I use it every day — I don’t always post things (although most times I do), but I always read and discover new things — it’s become integral to me in a bunch of ways. I share interesting articles about technology and startups and politics and literature that I find. I link to my blog posts like this one. I ask questions, mostly about travel and technology. I vent about things (I’m looking at you @unitedairlines). I talk about TV and music that I like. I track a bunch of my friends and coworkers and how they’re doing. And I make a lot of dumb jokes.

What’s clear at this point is that I’m not a particularly typical Twitter user. As services evolve, they find their main use cases, their reasons for existing. You’ve got Facebook for interacting with friends in symmetric ways; you’ve got Quora for getting high quality answers to questions; you’ve got Tumblr for expressing a synthesis of media that in aggregate represents you.

Twitter has evolved, I think, into essentially a celebrity broadcast medium. Now, I’m using the term ‘celebrity’ a little broadly — there are the Biebers and Gagas, of course, but there are also the CNNs and NPRs of news, and the Saccas of the tech world, and the long middle part of the curve of bands and critics and pundits that have tens or hundreds of thousands of followers. It seems obvious to me at this point that this is really what Twitter is for: tracking our mega and mini broadcasters, being able to follow along in real time to see what they’re doing, writing and what they’re amplifying from others.

That’s part of how I use it, but I think that my use case is somewhat more complicated, which makes my tweets pretty atypical. My tweet stream is more like a mix of broadcasting, retweets, active conversations with friends, debates with other techies, and a bunch of snarky jokes.

I think there are a few reasons for this.

First, because I’m more of a “Twitter native” — that is, someone who’s been active on the system since the first million users, I’ve been part of the ‘figuring out’ conversations that have happened, mostly as a user. So I’ve gone through several generations of the product before it landed on celebrity broadcast as the center, and some of those generations of use case have really stuck with me.

Second, I developed a bunch of my patterns while I worked at Mozilla, a uniquely open organization where Twitter really fit. Because we don’t have a ton of internal systems for closed communications by design, we like to have conversations in the open, on public wikis, on open IRC channels, and on Twitter. And because I had management responsibility of a distributed, global organization, it helped me to kind of keep track of folks I wasn’t able to see every day. Beyond that, it let me have some interactions in a public way with people that I could model so that others would see them and (maybe) learn from them. In a lot of ways, I think of it as the modern equivalent of Managing by Walking Around, popularized by Hewlett-Packard long ago. It’s easy to brush off this use case as not real, but I really did use it a lot for helping to manage at Mozilla.

And while Mozilla is obviously unique in its openness, in a lot of ways the Silicon Valley ecosystem shares some of the characteristics, with lots of actors who are decentralized and distributed, working in different ways but able to share public communication channels like this.

The third reason I’m quirky in my use, I think, is that I make so many jokes on it. I’ve always been a guy that’s most comfortable at the back of the classroom making jokes. It’s not necessarily the part of my personality I’m most proud of, but it’s what I do. I’m happiest in the back, scribbling semi-related ideas to what’s going on, making jokes to myself or friends. Twitter gives me a pretty good way to do that sort of thing without being disruptive, and it’s fun for me.

I guess last is the fact that a lot of close friends also spend a fair amount of time on it, so keeping up with them and interacting with them there is fun and rewarding.

As I’ve moved up to 50k followers and past, I think it’s going to start changing how I use it a bit, for better or worse. It’s becoming somewhat more of a broadcast/audience thing and less of a group-of-friends thing. It remains extremely useful and integral to me, but probably will be so in different ways.

Anyway, enough for now — just thought I’d capture a few thoughts here that wouldn’t fit in 140 characters. 🙂


21
Jul 11

Announcing Citrus Lane

I’ve been at Greylock 6 months now, and have a bunch of learnings and observations I’ll start sharing on the blog soon!

But in this post I’m really happy to share that the first investment that I’ve led is in Citrus Lane — an investment we made a few months ago.

Citrus Lane is a modern subscription e-commerce company that’s focused on getting awesome, healthy, useful & delightful products to young families. They launched their site and products last week. 🙂

I’m really, really excited to be involved with the company.

I’m exited about the category: subscription commerce is coming like a freight train; we’re in a period where the way we buy products and services is changing dramatically and quickly. The comprehensiveness of Amazon’s offerings and the ubiquity of the modern logistics chain have paved the way for more thoughtful, curated, unique offerings to consumers, highly targeted by interest, lifestyle and personal tastes.

I’m excited about the particular sector: as a family with a kindergartner, I’m acutely aware of how you go from month to month never knowing whether you should be doing better taking care of your children, thinking there must be better ways to do things and better products. It’s obvious to me that we’ve made product and process decisions that will last for years. And it’s super obvious that young parents, and especially moms, control trillions of dollars of product decisions.

And I’m particularly excited to work with the CEO & Founder, Mauria Finley. I’ve known Mauria for more than 15 years — she’s a Stanford-trained Computer Scientist with a particular expertise in product design, and has held product leadership roles at Ebay, PayPal, Good, AOL and elsewhere. She’s fantastic, and a highly motivated first time CEO. She’s been great to work with so far and I think will continue to be tops.

She’s putting together a very interesting team that includes Claire Hough, her co-founder & CTO — previously of NexTag, Blue Martini, Netscape, Napster and more.

So they’re launched! Go take a look and see what you think. Watch this space (and follow them on Twitter!). 🙂

[PS — I’ve done several other investments, but they’ve been from our Discovery Fund, which we typically don’t announce publicly unless the companies really want us to. This is somewhat different in that I’m on the board of directors and it’s a more significant level of investment.]


23
Jun 11

My Interview in Fast Company

Fast Company just put up an interview with me done by Kermit Pattison, and I’m really, really happy with it. It covers a lot of topics, including how I think about leadership & management (they’re not the same!), some lessons I’ve learned about how to be more extroverted, some things I’ve only recently started to really understand about some of the very important lessons I’ve learned along the way. Kermit did a really good job in capturing the essence of how I think about this stuff. Would love to read any impressions, reactions, arguments or otherwise that you have. 🙂


20
May 11

Recruiting DNA

Since coming to Greylock full time in January, I’ve been talking to a lot of people. I did that before, of course — I’ve always spent a lot of time building my network — but in this role it’s significantly more than ever before. So I’ve been talking with tons of entrepreneurs, tons of techies, tons of executives, tons of students — for a variety of reasons, including funding, recruiting for roles here at Greylock, etc.

One of the things I’ve been really, really struck by is how significant the first 4 or 5 years of a person’s career seems to be on how they think and how they approach the world. It’s typically very easy to tell if someone started their career at Google or Apple or Microsoft or Paypal or a bunch of others, even when they’re 15 years into their career and well removed from that first job. You can just see it in the way they approach problems. These are gross simplifications and overgeneralizations, but Googlers tend to think about things in a data and machine learning sort of way. Amazon folk (Amazonians?) tend to think in terms of testing and yield. And other companies that shall remain nameless are notable in that their alumni have absurdly good PowerPoint skills. (Which, sadly, is not actually a positive indicator.)

So like I say, gross oversimplifications and gross generalizations, but you really can tell a lot about where a person started their career by how they act and think about things. (And I guess others have had this insight about organizational imprinting before — here’s an HBS study and here’s what Diego wrote about his early time at HP a few weeks back.)

Since I was in Austin this week, where I started my career at Trilogy, I reflected some on how I was imprinted by being there — and for all the weird, screwed up world views I developed there (and believe me, it was like 90% screwed up world view), the thing that imprinted most is an insane focus on recruiting insanely talented people. As a company, we were relentless about getting the smartest, most driven, most talented people we could. We were a tiny company, but going toe to toe with giants in on campus recruiting, for example — and I think we were probably about the best tech company at recruiting anywhere in the US in the mid-90s.

So thank goodness I went to Trilogy, because that intense focus on recruiting at all levels, getting ridiculously talented people to work with and getting out of their way — that’s something that’s been absolutely critical and foundational for me my whole career. When I tell people I worked at Trilogy, most people today don’t know what that is, even. But I’m very happy to trade off a brand name on the resume for getting recruiting into my DNA in a fundamental way. It changed everything.