For someone who has radically changed everything from the parks to the technological community of Manhattan, big wig venture capitalist Fred Wilson pretty much wound up here by default. Thank God his wife had a plan. "We got out of college together and she knew what she wanted to do and I had no idea," says Wilson. "She wanted to come to New York and it sounded like a fun thing to me, so we moved here. It was all just a youthful sense of adventure I guess."
Twenty-five years later, as the cofounder of Union Square Ventures—which invests in hot tech companies such as del.icio.us, wesabe, and twitter—Wilson who is a leading voice in venture capital finance and a community leader who has participated in campaigns such as the cleaning up of Madison Square Park, couldn't imagine his life anywhere else. "The city's great. You don't need to drive, you can walk everywhere," says the father of three. "My kids started walking to school when they were in 5th grade, and now that they're teenagers they take cabs or the subway everywhere. There's nothing that my kids had in the suburbs in the brief time we lived there that they don't have here in the city—but there a lot of things that they have in the city that they would never have in the suburbs."
Wilson, who prefers Manhattan south of 34th Street—"it's too crowded, too business-y, too touristy, too noisy up there"—often ventures from his beloved West Village address on his regular bike tours of the city: "New York is an amazing place to ride. I ride everywhere—to Coney Island, City Island, Far Rockaway, and over the George Washington Bridge." He also makes sure to pack his hours outside of that hectic work schedule—which takes him to Silicon Valley one week out of every month—with concerts, theater, dinners and all the unique nightlife New York has to offer. "I quit working at like 6:30, 7 PM. I never do any work after that. I either go home and hang out with my kids and go to the park and throw a baseball with my son or I go out to dinner with my wife or to the theater with my entire family. Relaxing is part of what makes it possible to live in this city—because it is a stressful place."
Of course, his business success makes all those achievements seem quite effortless. At the forefront of some of the biggest Internet startups, a modest Wilson owns up to being at the right place at the right time. "I don't want to take credit for it because I didn't do it all by myself. Venture capitalists provide the capital—it's the entrepreneurs who really made it all happen," he says. "But I was involved in helping a lot of these companies get started, and I take a lot of pride in that." With the merger of financial services and the marketing/media/publishing/entertainment industries, New York—a city who had little technological presence three decades ago—is now helping redefine the industry. "I guess the thing that excites me the most out of any of this, is, that technology is leveling the playing field in a fundamental way—it makes it possible for anybody who has the energy and the passion to do something."
Putting his money where his mouth is, Wilson's own interests, such as music, are well documented on his popular blog, A VC: the Musings of a VC in NYC, which chronicles a homebase that is constantly fueling his creativity and wonder. "In some ways New York keeps you young because it allows you to continue to engage in your passions—it's so easy for me to go home, have dinner with my family, help my kids with their homework, and then go out and see a show at Bowery Ballroom. And then I can come home at midnight, go to bed, and get up the next morning, and do it all over again." Sounds like Wilson never lost that youthful sense of adventure that brought him here in the first place.
Listen to an exclusive audio podcast with Fred Wilson on the official ontheinside.info blog here.
The cappuccino is great, the little pastries are great, and the lunches are fantastic. …more
They book shows I love—the bands who are just starting to become known, they're bands that are just starting to break. …more
A lot of the profits from the Shake Shack go to fund the upkeep of the park, so Shake Shack being there makes it more likely the park is going to remain a beautiful, pristine park. …more
When you walk in, there are all these old Apple Macintoshes, along with old typewriters and radios and it's sort of a museum for old electronics. …more
It's a sushi place, and the guy who works behind the bar is a real authentic sushi chef. …more
If you never walked inside of it, you wouldn't know, but right in the middle of this huge structure is an enormous ball field where kids and adults play soccer and baseball. …more
The best thing about the 14th Street subway station is there's an artist who makes these really cool little brass sculptures, it's really great. …more