Union Square Ventures’ Weissman Reviews Investment Trends And Native Ads

weissmanAndy Weissman is partner at Union Square Ventures (USV), a “venture captial firm focused on early-stage and start-up investing.” Weissman joined USV in October of 2011 after co-founding Betaworks.

Weissman recently discussed his thoughts on ad tech and investment trends with AdExchanger.

From an investment thesis perspective, what’s the biggest change for you since you joined Union Square Ventures from Betaworks?

There hasn’t been that big a change at all, I would say. But if I had to mark one, it would be that USV, with the latest $200mm fund, has the ability to be a longer term financial supporter, investing in multiple rounds over multiple years, if needed. In fact, I imagine we would prefer, if possible, to not even have a time horizon for any exit at all, instead letting the companies we support grow naturally and organically.

Is Union Square Ventures seeking new opportunity in advertising or marketing tech today – or are you all steering clear?

Generally speaking, USV does not really invest in ad tech/ad networks. Our thesis, centered on large networks of users, means me usually invest in the actual end services themselves.

And the proverbial venture investment “bubble” – does it exist?

No. And yes. 😉

Last November, you discussed “The Golden Age of Internet Marketing” in a post on your personal blog. Do you see “native” ads as a new form of display or banner ads – or is it something all new?

I think native advertising – just as with web or mobile native services – are something new altogether. I imagine that when they become mature they will look and feel like little that came before them, but also perhaps achieve the same results. I see display ads as just a magazine metaphor translated to the Internet. There is nothing terribly original about them, and maybe that is why they don’t seem that effective.

Contrast that with ads on Stumble Upon – which are just web pages – or “ads” onTwitter – which are just tweets. Those are “units” which are exactly the same as the units a user interacts with or contributes. In that way they can be consistent with the flow of how the user uses the products. That’s an important next phase.

How do you see Facebook advertising playing out in the next year or two?

I want to see what the unit Facebook develops that is consistent with the fabric of how the user uses the product.

Looking back 5 years ago, how is the entrepreneur of today different?

The entrepreneur of today has access to so much more information, the start up and funding processes have become so much more transparent, it’s amazing and wonderful. My grandfather was an inventor many years ago I wish he had access to the information people have now.

Your fellow partner, Fred Wilson, has been vocal on his thoughts on the impact of the JOBS act – what do you think? Good for the entrepreneur? Good for the venture or angel investor?

To me, the more interesting thing is is we have these wonderful amazing services that are comprised of the contributions of their users – FB, Etsy, 4sq, Kickstarter, Path. How do those companies grow and scale – and go public in some cases, while respecting and rewarding that new dynamic. That is where some real innovation could occur.

Follow Andy Weissman (@aweissman), Union Square Ventures (@usv) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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