Investing is humbling. At 60, with 35 years of venture investing experience, I still get most things wrong.
Which is why I like to keep things simple. And when I do I am rewarded.
My friend Gordon asked me last night how I got into Bitcoin. I told him the story of how I bumped into Rikki Tahta walking through the garment district in NYC in the spring of 2011 and Rikki told me he was working on a Bitcoin startup. I replied, “a what coin startup?”. And Rikki told me to read the Bitcoin White Paper. I did and I was hooked.
I didn’t even understand parts of the white paper. But what I did get was that it described a way of making permissionless money. And it was not just an idea. It was a working system that had been operating for several years. I understand how important permissionless servers and applications (web 1.0) turned out to be and so I understood how important permissionless money was going to be.
That was all it took for me. I bought Bitcoin and went about finding a Bitcoin investment to make. That was Coinbase.
The same was true with blogging and tweeting a decade earlier. I met Mena Trott at a Nick Denton party in NYC in 2003 and she explained blogging to me. I was struck by the idea that anyone could be a publisher. And I became one myself a few days later (when I wrote the first post here on AVC). That led me to Twitter a few years later when I saw that most people would prefer to write a text message to the world over a long-form blog post. For those that don’t know, Twitter was initially built to use SMS to post and so the initial 140 character limit was just under the max characters you could put into a text message.
The same is true with NFTs. When I saw Rare Pepes, I was struck with the idea of making unique, rare, and scarce digital goods. And when I saw what Dapper Labs made with Crypto Kitties, I didn’t think too much about making that investment. It helped that the team had contributed to the ERC 721 spec and coined the name NFT.
The point of these stories is that aha moments come around every so often and you just need to let them grab you and take you to a foundational investment. You don’t need to do much due diligence on these. I did none on Twitter, Coinbase, or Dapper. What I did do is use the products, get in the game, feel the power, and get conviction.
You can read the investment memos for those investments on USV.com.
We publish our investment memos for the world to see. When you read them you will notice that they are basically an articulation of a big idea, what could happen, and in these cases, what did happen. That’s all. No technical diligence (had we done any on Twitter, we would have passed on it), no financial models, no talking to industry experts. Just an aha moment and an idea of what could happen.
That’s keeping it simple. It doesn’t always work. We get more wrong than we get right. But when we get it right, amazing things can happen.