Some Initial Thoughts On USV’s New Community Site

Today, NYC-based Union Square Ventures unveiled their new community site under “Beta” at beta.usv.com. Now, while I talk to these guys often, I had no idea today was the day they’d lift the curtains. And, over the past few months, I have talked to folks at USV about how to reinvent systems and how important original content is to connect with like-minded people. Anyway, I was excited to see what they cooked up (and I like it so far), so here are my brief thoughts on it:

  • This is very “USV’ – I’m not sure another firm could’ve pulled this off. Firms all have content strategies now, but trying to be a destination is a whole other game. Sequoia is building “Grove” and a16z may be able to reinvent the technology news category. There’s First Round Capital with First Round Review, their Harvard Business Review, which is just really high quality. USV’s core strengths here are Fred’s daily blog (plus at least 100 comments per day), Albert’s daily blog (usually around 30+ comments a day, and underrated in my opinion), and occasionally when Andy writes (wish he’d write more!). USV can now combine this reach with the power held in Disqus from their readers and invert the model, asking the audience to suggest what’s important. Yes, it’s very much like what PG did with Hacker News, and there’s no reason that model cannot be verticalized with a more venture or market-based mindset.
  • Takes Pressure Off Of AVC.com – Fred is his own media powerhouse. This is important to USV in many ways, but I’d sense Fred also doesn’t like it because it takes focus away from the team. While everyone will likely blog on their own sites, people in their community (like me) can now go into their site and directly interact with others via Disqus or other oAuth systems. So, the mindshare goes slightly from the individual back to the firm, which is a nice, subtle touch.
  • Android-Only, For Now – As I’m an unabashed Android-hater, I love that these guys only released an Android app. Brilliant!
  • “Pin to USV” Interaction – With a Chrome bookmarklet, folks in the community can now easily pin articles they’ve seen online that are interesting and pump them back into USV.com. The hope is that the community will bubble up the most interesting things, though it could be noisy, too. Let’s see. At least folks will have an audience.
  • Testing Ideas Outside Of The Hallway – Say the firm is exploring a thesis or idea. Now, without tipping their hand or focusing on an individual blog, they can place articles into the forum or comment and explore those ideas outside the hallways of their offices. That is pretty cool if it works.
  • Moderation Is Key – I’d imagine this place will be moderated from Day 1, as being on the USV site cannot afford trolling or other types of unsavory participation. If moderated well, I think people will come here more and more, because there aren’t many places that exist like this in technology circles, even though there are plenty of forums, etc.
  • Transition Planning – Say one day some of the folks at USV aren’t there. Who knows when…but, the point is that individual brands and their audiences may not move, so doing Beta as a discussion forum helps unify the community under the USV brand and makes it easier for a new partner to step in at a point in the future, as I’d assume that new partner blogs and would be the type of person to interact online in such a manner, though they may not have their own audience or brand. This is important for firms to consider in leadership transitions because so much of the intellectual and brand capital can be tied up in individuals.

Haystack is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2018 Semil Shah.

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