Thinking About Thinking

Fred Wilson Is Doing Something Right

Posted in Venture Capital by larrycheng on September 9, 2009

Thanks to TechCrunch’s support of the VC Blog Directory.  Erick Schonfeld highlighted the Sept 2009 update yesterday and Leena Rao wrote about the original May 2009 version.  I thought Erick’s post yesterday was particularly interesting as it highlighted the movers and shakers among VC bloggers – by the change of their ranking in the directory over the last 3+ months. 

When I looked at both versions of the directory side-by-side, the thing that stands out to me the most is the growth of Fred Wilson’s blog (Fred is with Union Square Ventures).  As Erick points out, Fred Wilson was ranked #2 in May, and still remains #2 in Sept.  But, that belies an amazing trend underneath the surface.

Here’s the data for the entire VC blog directory (effectively a proxy for the entire VC industry):

  • Aggregate subscribers to the VC Blog Directory in May 2009: 80,532.
  • Aggregate subscribers to those same blogs in Sept 2009: 120,562.
  • The growth in the last 3+ months has been 40,030 subscribers or 50.1% across all the blogs in the May directory.

Here’s the data for Fred Wilson’s blog over the same period:

  • Subscribers to Fred Wilson’s blog in May 2009: 11,821.
  • Subscribers to Fred Wilson’s blog in Sept 2009: 21,881.
  • The growth for his blog has been 10,060 subscribers or 85.1% growth in 3+ months.   

But here’s the implication of when you put these two stats together: Fred Wilson’s blog subscriber growth represented 25% of the blog subscriber growth of the entire VC industry (=10,060/40,030).   

I would call that clear competitive separation.  As other bloggers grow their subscribers by 100, 500, or even 1,000 subscribers over the same time period, Fred grew his blog 10x, 50x, even 100x those numbers.  And, I’m sure it doesn’t take Fred any longer to write a blog post for 10,000 subscribers as it does 20,000 subscribers – so it’s the best kind of competitive seperation – it has embedded leverage.  Since I’m a runner, the best track analogy I can think of is imagine running around the track once, and having the other guy lap you 20 times in the process.  Arguably, that’s what Fred is doing – lapping the VC industry many times over through his blog.

Now, you could argue whether or not Google Reader subscribers the best statistic (as Rob Go at Spark Capital has asked me).  And I think there’s a reasonable question there.  Though I would say it’s still a fair statistic of relative reach.  And, you could even more strongly argue that blogging isn’t a subscriber competition – which I would certainly agree with.  As Jeff Bussgang at Flybridge Capital once told me, the reason to blog is because you like writing and it’s fun.  I couldn’t agree more. 

Nonetheless, you have to give kudos where kudos is due.  I admire great execution in any context.  So, kudos to Fred Wilson.  Clearly, he is doing something right.

7 Responses

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  1. Joshua Karp said, on September 9, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I read Fred’s blog, and I read yours (among a very few others). Recently, a much younger entrepreneur asked me who I follow, and your were the third or fourth name I mentioned. So, you’re doing a decent job, too. Josh

    • larrycheng said, on September 9, 2009 at 5:46 pm

      Thanks Josh – that’s a high compliment – appreciate it.

  2. fred wilson said, on September 9, 2009 at 4:05 pm


    this is a very flattering post and thanks for all the kind words

    however, i am not sure about the math

    my audience has been growing about 10% per year for the past 3-4 years and I see similar growth this year

    RSS subs are not readers, they are people who click on a subscribe button. some turn out to be readers but most do not.

    feedburner tells me that my daily RSS reach is about 6k on a total subscriber base of about 54k

    so that means about 12% of my subs actually read my posts on any given day

    i do work very hard on the AVC blog and I think that I am doing something right. and i am rewarded by a loyal and growing audience.

    but it is certainly not growing by 85% in the past three months. i wish it were so, but it is not.

    • larrycheng said, on September 9, 2009 at 4:23 pm

      Fred – Thanks for sharing your data and for your clarification. It’s good of you to question a post that is so complimentary. Here’s what we know to be true – your subscriber growth on Google Reader did grow 85% in 3+ months. To your point, that doesn’t mean your readership grew 85% because not all subscribers are readers. In addition, readers could have migrated from another RSS reader to Google, thereby not representing incremental net new growth. So, your data weighed against the Google data could suggest that Google Reader is growing aggressively as a platform as much as anything else. That being said, that would be the case for everyone on the list. So, for whatever absolute flaws the data has, there’s something to be said on a relative basis nonetheless. You’re definitely doing something right – congrats.


      • Fred’s answer shows an attitude that _earned_ him every loyal eyeball that reads his blog – extremely well controlled ego and genuineness not usually found in the world of VC/PE (can’t blame you though, LPs aren’t that easy to serve).
        I read his stuff on Twitter and on RSS. Never met him, but he sounds like a guy who earned every ounce of respect (and not because he writes checks). Great example for the rest of the industry… though I am not sure most care.

  3. William Mougayar said, on September 9, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Hi Larry,
    About a month ago, I did a composite ranking based on yours+Tech Crunch’s, basically merging the socially-networked with the deal-networked, and only 21 VC firms were on both lists.
    Union Square Ventures still comes up on top.
    Here are the results:
    The Top 21 Socially and Deal Networked VC’s

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