business, economics, financing, music, venture capital

We’re Doomed! And Now a Top 10 List.

Two memes have been re-circling in VC land the past few days. The first meme is the recurring commentary and speculation surrounding Sequoia Capital’s RIP presentation. The second meme is end of year Top 10 Album lists. Bijan Sabet of Spark Capital has his post up today  (agree with Death Cab and Radiohead, Vampire Weekend was fun but forgettable) and Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures will have his up tomorrow.

The Sequoia item began to recirculate following a piece in PE Hub. PE Hub was reporting on a conference panel at MIT where a Sequoia partner, Michael Goguen, explained that despite widespread speculation that his firm had purposefully leaked their presentation, this was not the case. In fact, they were surprised that it leaked at all. While some may find this revelation surprising, I think it’s charming and can find reason for optimism in his claims. Ten years after the first Internet bubble began to inflate, even the backer of Yahoo!, Google and YouTube is amazed (shocked! shocked!) by the interweb’s power to rapidly disseminate information. Although I do wonder how they manage to keep their LP reports under wraps…

Switching gears, annual Top 10 lists are always a fun passage of December. I tend to scan them to try to find the great albums I missed the year before. Last year, that was how I came across the great Pet Sounds-esque album, “Person Pitch” by Panda Bear. I’m less bullish this year. I really liked the new albums from Death Cab for Cutie, Radiohead, George Strait and AC/DC but albums which I initially thought I loved proved fleeting (My Morning Jacket, Coldplay, John Legend). Nevertheless, I’ll scour the lists and hopefully add some good ones to my collection. These are always little “Merry Christmas to me” presents.

This year, I thought it might be fun to combine the these two ideas. Like Sequoia I’ve long believed that we were headed for a rough economic journey over choppy waters. But I never failed to see the silver lining around the magnitude of their doom & gloom. I still think there exist opportunities for great entrepreneurs and great ideas. At First Round, we know the spirit of entrepreneurship is still there. After all, we had 60+ people attend our Palo Alto Office Hours event. So with a nod to Sequoia, a tip of the hat to to the annual top ten albums lists, and a salute to those entrepreneurs who are about to rock, I salute you with the following list:

The Top Three Albums Made While Horrific Shit Was Going Down All Around

  1. Back in Black (AC/DC) What do you do when the lead singer of your band chokes to death on his own vomit? Well, if you’re AC/DC you don’t stop. You craft the definitive hard rock album. Yes, you start the first track, “Hells Bells” with a bell tolling for your lost mate, but that’s where the self-pity ends. By the time the opening chords of the second track, “Shoot to Thrill” come on, a statement has been made: the band ain’t stopping. Songs you might know from this album: Hells Bells, Shoot to Thrill, Givin’ the Dog a Bone, Let Me Put My Love Into You, Back in Black, You Shook Me All Night Long, Have a Drink on Me, Shake a Leg, Rock ‘n Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.
  2. Eat a Peach (The Allman Brothers band) The greatest slide guitarist to ever live, and the leader of your band, Duane Allman, crashes his motorcycle into the back of a lumber truck. Just as the band was taking off after their legendary Fillmore East shows, and halfway through the recording of a new album, The Allman Brothers Band had to recreate themselves and carry on. Eat a Peach did more than that. First the band declared that they Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More. Next Dickey Betts cemented his status as a musician worthy of standing outside of Duane’s long shadow. With Blue Sky, Betts also moved the band in a western country direction that would influence them for over a decade. Other songs you might know: One Way Out, Trouble No More, Little Martha.
  3. Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs (Derek & the Dominoes) Just about the worst thing that can happen to a guy is to fall in love with his best friend’s wife. Eric Clpaton topped that. First, he fell in love with George Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd. Next, he descended down the spiral of heroin addiction. But in the midst of it of depression and addiction, Clapton wrote Layla to exorcise his unrequited love for Pattie Boyd (they later married and divorced). Some other songs from the album: Bell Bottom Blues, Tell the Truth, Why Does Love Got to be So Sad?, Little Wing.

Realizing that all of these albums were produced at least 28 years ago, I would also submit the entire Foo Fighters catalogue as proof that great things can come out of very bad things.

So to all of you who are feeling gloomy, and especially to my friends and former colleagues at Yahoo, remember bad times create opportunities. They are a chance to rediscover or reinvent yourself. They are the perfect excuse to chuck it and do exactly what it was that you always wanted and knew you could do. Take these times as a bizarre, twisted, painful gift. And make greatness from it.

One thought on “We’re Doomed! And Now a Top 10 List.

  1. Kent — my best of the year, for this craziest and wildest of years, is on… I also spent a lot of time combing through my collection for “truth from the past,” and kept coming back to 1972 — you’ve got “Big Star,” Allman’s “Eat a Peach,” “Superfly,” and “The Harder they come.” Talk about raising the roof on tough times!


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