Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

"They Failed": VC Fred Wilson Gets BoomTown's First Annual Someone-Had-to-Say-It Award

BoomTown has always enjoyed–although I have not always agreed with–the ruminations of Fred Wilson in his must-read blog, A VC.

Today, the New York venture investor–heard of Foursquare, Twitter?–penned one that was flatly on point, simply titled “Chasing Returns” about a potential crisis in start-up funding.

It was all due to a new class of investors too focused on chasing returns, noted Wilson, “and some of them do not understand what they are investing in.”

Rut-roh.

Perhaps dumb moneybags are not the greatest worry of our time–but dumber justifications of questionable success certainly should be, which Wilson also called out recently in an article in the New York Observer about the bubbly start-up scene there.

Said Wilson:

“It’s not all going great. You know, companies are failing. A couple of high-flying entrepreneurs came crashing to the ground recently. Justin Shaffer of Hot Potato and Sam Lessin of Drop.io–both of those companies essentially failed. Both of them ended up ‘selling’ their businesses to Facebook, but those were really just–Facebook wanted to hire those people, and they wrapped it up in a ‘sale.’ But those companies were unsuccessful. They failed. So there is failure out there–like, right in front of us. We can see it.”

Many quickly cried foul after Wilson’s remarks, but many more secretly shook their heads in agreement at the reality distortion field around entrepreneurs.

This has happened a lot lately in Silicon Valley, of course–as evidenced by a series of just-in-time saves of once high-flying start-ups (Slide being bought by Google comes to mind) sold as wins.

Indeed, painting failure as another form of success is one of the favorite and endearing canards of tech, showing an ability to bounce back from any negative and pivot into a new direction.

But most pivoting, as Loren Feldman of 1938 Media recently pointed out, is just another word for covering up misdirection.

Perhaps misdirection–as it should be in any world that thrives on innovation and entrepreneurial instincts–is all well and good, but it is only that way as long as it is identified as such when it occurs.

So, good for Wilson for truth-in-labeling when it comes to start-ups, investing and chasing returns these days.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus