Ten Years of Venture Capital Blogging
Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of Venture Capital blogging. How do I know? Because my first post on VentureBlog was on March 5, 2003 (a pithy little post entitled “I’m a VC. Who the hell are you?” — no, it wasn’t a precursor to my post on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, it was a post about starting your VC presentation with team bios), and before VentureBlog, VCs pretty much kept mum. A lot has changed since 2003. Now there is barely a Venture Capital firm out there that doesn’t have at least one blog or blogger. At a minimum, every VC firm has at least one nano-blogger who shares his or her wisdom in 140 characters or fewer.
It is hard to imagine that blogging was an innovation for the venture capital industry 10 years ago. But it was. When I entered the venture business, no one would have thought of blogging. After all, how could you give away all your best VC secrets? The venture industry was a black box, and the VCs liked it that way. But that’s not how we saw it.
Truth be told, VentureBlog was the brain child of Andrew Anker. Andrew and I worked together at August Capital in the early 2000s, along with Naval Ravikant. We were all deeply ensconced in the emergence of social media. Andrew approached me and Naval and suggested that we start a VC blog. We discussed the fact that VCs rarely talk about what they do or how they do it. But we could not come up with a good reason why that was. So far as we could tell, there weren’t any real secrets to be had. So we decided to do the unthinkable and actually write about venture capital.
The beauty of being the first bloggers in an industry is that we had a ton to write about. The world was our oyster. We could talk about how best to pitch a VC. We could talk about the technologies that excited us. We could talk about the many conferences we attended. No matter what we wrote about, we were the first VCs to discuss it. And entrepreneurs were clamoring for information about venture capital. Not surprisingly, the value of this conversation we were having with entrepreneurs was not lost on others in the venture industry. And soon, VC blogs started popping up everywhere we turned.
There is little question that this marketplace of ideas was incredibly valuable to entrepreneurs. What was once a black box became a glass box. Venture investors started writing about everything — how they analyzed businesses, how they assessed teams, how they derived valuations. What’s more, VCs started writing not only about the industries in which they were interested, but the very companies they found compelling. It was a brave new world. So much so that it was front-page news for the venture capital industry — the Venture Capital Journal ran a cover story in January of 2005 entitled “My Life as a Blogger” accompanied by my smiling mug. Ridiculous but true.
Now that ten years have past, one has to ask if we VC bloggers have learned anything? Is it all just navel gazing, or is there something to this blogging stuff? The answer is a resounding “yes.” It is often navel gazing, but there’s something to it. Those of us who have spent the last decade or so blogging have gotten a lot of value out of it. In particular, I find that I learn a ton by articulating a particular point of view; I learn even more by engaging in a conversation with entrepreneurs about that particular point of view, and I am able to generate a bunch of attention by actually having a point of view I’m willing to articulate. The combination is powerful and valuable.
I often find myself espousing the belief that entrepreneurs should not bother writing a business plan. Business plans are static tomes that are almost assuredly outdated the second they are completed. So why bother? The one reason is to better understand and articulate your business. Some entrepreneurs find the act of memorializing their businesses in a document to be clarifying. The same is true of blogging. If you really want to fully appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of a point of view, articulate it. I have found that the process of writing about a particular topic can be highly elucidating. Sometimes I get it really right and sometimes I get it really wrong, but I always have a deeper understanding of the topic when I’ve finished writing about it.
The same is true of the conversation that surrounds a well-articulated blog post. At the outset of blogging, all of the conversation took place in the comments section of the blog itself, or in the posts on other related blogs. That conversation now extends into the social web. Commentary on my blog posts appears on Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter, providing me with an even broader discussion of the relative merits of my points of view. I quickly learn what resonates with my readers and what does not.
Lastly, blogging has become an incredible megaphone. Over the years, millions of people have read what I have to say about venture capital and entrepreneurship. What’s more, blogging has given me the ability to connect directly with my readers. My point of view is not filtered or interpreted by others — I get to speak for myself. In combination with the powerful amplification of social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, VentureBlog has proven a valuable tool for me and my firm to rise above the noise.
I had no idea ten years ago that VentureBlog would prove a catalyst for a whole industry of bloggers. But I am thrilled that it has. Not only has blogging provided us venture capitalists with the opportunity to demystify an enigmatic industry. More importantly, it has given entrepreneurs an invaluable resource to assist them in the incredibly challenging task of company creation. With any luck, VentureBlog and the many VC blogs that followed will continue to flourish for years to come.
David Hornik is a general partner at August Capital, with a focus on information technology companies. He is the author of VentureBlog, the first venture capital blog, and VentureCast, the first venture capital podcast, and is the founder and executive producer of The Lobby conference, an annual gathering of the thought leaders of the digital media ecosystem.