Leaving Union Square Ventures: My other me is an avatar...

On October 14, 2004, I sat in DTUT working on my Stanford MBA application, trying to figure out where all this was going....   

"In the last day or so, I've found clarity of vision. ...Its the best and biggest
thing I have the potential to do right now, and I shouldn't be shooting
for anything less than that. I don't want to look back on my life over
the next few years and think I left anything on the table. Let's see
how far this can go. I want to let it ride.

This is going to be big.  I can feel it."

That's how my blog got named, and we've come a long way since my eventual rejection from Stanford.  :)  On July 17th, after seventeen of the most eye-opening months of my professional life, I will be leaving Union Square Ventures to join Oddcast in the newly created position of Director of Consumer Products.

I imagine, given my obsession with my avatar, that hardly comes as a surprise to most of you... but here's the extended version.

My time here at Union Square Ventures has been nothing short of amazing.  In less than two years, I went from being an investment analyst at a pension fund to helping a venture-backed digital media company with their burgeoning consumer effort.  That would not have been possible had it not been for the opportunity that everyone here at USV afforded me...   from the front row seat that Brad and Fred made sure I had for all of our meetings, investment discussions, and interaction with entrepreneurs, to Kerri's patience for having to sit next to me day in and day out in "reception".

Brad and Fred have been great mentors.  I knew this was going to be a great fund when I evaluated them for GM back in 2004, but I really didn't understand how far ahead of the pack they were until after I got here.  Right around the time that I got here was when they were talking to Joshua from del.icio.us...   I totally didn't get it.  Bookmarks?  Tagging?  Not many VCs would have understood it at such an early stage either.  I got it soon enough, though.  These guys were ahead of the curve by a year and I definitely benefited from the insight the market gave them credit for.  Union Square Ventures developed a great brand in a short period of time, and that granted me access to a deep and knowledgeable network of people. 

Think of working at USV like MBA 2.0.  Lots of networking.  Lots of "case studies".  We met a ton of companies and in each and every single one of those meetings, there was something to be learned... some new way of thinking...  or an inspiration for a thought experiment of our own.  It was the most educational birds eye view of Everything 2.0 that I could have had....  and so to all of the entrepreneurs I was lucky enough to meet with while I was here, thank you for your time, your passion, and your attempts to reshape and improve the world.

The only difficult thing was that, when you're an analyst, you don't really live and die by your own sword.  You contribute to decisions, but it is difficult to have direct impact on your company.  Plus, any company that interacts with us here can tell you that we're a passionate group of users that love to play product manager with a whiteboard once in a while to generate ideas.  Sometimes, in that process, you meet a company whose product and its potential you can't shake out of your head--one where you feel like you have some unique insight or talent that could be the missing piece of a great puzzle.  When we met with Adi, Oren, and Gil from Oddcast, I felt that from the start.  I wrote about why we were excited about Oddcast as an investment on the USV blog.  But here, on my blog, I'll tell you why I am personally excited about this opportunity...  as a company and just in terms of my own personal opportunity.

If there's anything that we've learned over the past two years or so on the web, is that if you give people a fun and flexible way to express themselves and connect to other people, great things happen.  The most interesting new voice in media is us, and we are a growing part of our own digital experience.  In Oddcast, I see a company with a platform that enables self expression in a unique way and one that has some key components--mobile and voice--that have the potential to create an exponential amount of social interaction and value to the end user. 

This is going to be a fun challenge and a tremendous opportunity for me.  I get to work together with a great team to figure out how users want to express themselves digitally and what those expressions will look like.  The Oddcast platform is a great base to build on and it is going to enable what is potentially a very creative and unique business model--one that I'm confident brands and advertisers are going to be very interested in.

So all I can say is stay tuned, because I'm jumping in the game here, coming a big step closer to fulfilling the nomenclature of this blog...