On Monday September 21, our class Expanding Cinema: New Media, the Movies and Beyond was visited by Andy Weissman, who is a partner at Union Square Ventures - a venture capital firm with a large budget to invest into “the next big thing” as far as the internet is concerned.
Andy’s biography on the Union Square Ventures website states, “Andy began his career in the Internet at AOL in the mid-90s, then managed a series of venture funds with Dawntreader Ventures. Prior to joining USV, in 2007 he co-founded betaworks, which both created and invested in social, real-time applications and services. Andy was born in New York City and has a BA from Wesleyan University and a JD from Georgetown.”
What they don’t mention is that he also founded bit.ly - something we have all seen and used without even questioning how it came about. If you don’t know what bit.ly is, it is a URL shortening service that allows you to easily share links with others and trace the content back to the original source. Andy admitted that the only perk to creating this URL is to say he did it, but to me that is pretty freaking cool.
Union Square Ventures has five partners supported by seven people providing investment and operations support. They have invested in companies such as Kik, Kickstarter, Soundcloud, Tumblr, and Twitter. So yes, you could say that they are a big deal.
When Andy told the class that his job with USV is to take a large budget and invest into multiple up and coming media forms, I thought “okay where can I sign up?!” Andy’s job is something we all want to do but something not everyone truly can do. With a team, Andy has to plan strategically how much money to give to a company (if any) and then hope it is not going to be a complete failure. If an investment becomes a success, like Twitter did, it is a win for all including the public. However, if the investment is a flop, no one wins. Like I said, not everyone can do what Andy does!
What really struck me about Andy is his passion for the media world. If you are reading this right now, I am assuming you also have a passion for the media world. If you are not trying to create media, you are definitely a part of it by investing time in new media forms. This media world is changing constantly and plays a major role in society’s everyday life.
What do we see on our walk to class? People talking, texting, listening to music, or taking pictures - all on their phones! Those interested in creating new media forms are noticing what everyday people are doing on their devices and trying to create something for them that is more convenient than what they already have. Andy tells the creator(s) that their product has potential and helps them get it off the ground. We would not have Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook if it weren’t for investments from firms such as Union Square Ventures.
Something that Andy spoke passionately about was a new media form that he is very interested in and believes will be the next best thing. This new form will showcase short films - and short films only. As Andy pointed out-- “we” don’t have time to sit around. We are always on the go and we need something that can work with us. The new media form will showcase short films because they know people are more willing to watch a short film rather than start a movie on a commute, or while waiting for something like an elevator. Although we have access to short films on other sites - this new media form would be designed specifically for those with short attention spans who want to view complete stories in a short amount of time, preferably on a mobile device.
The final words from Andy were, “make cool shit!” Although this was funny, it also is very true. Andy wants us to expand our minds and open ourselves us to be as creative as possible. Why? Because Jack Dorsey of Twitter wanted to make cool shit and never gave up. Yes, the process may be long but who knows if someone like Andy will discover it and invest the money it needs to succeed?
On behalf of the class Expanding Cinema: New Media, the Movies and Beyond, I’d like to thank Andy for speaking to us. I was inspired to evaluate the technology I encounter everyday and think about how it could be more convenient. Personally, I am content using Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook but I am also excited to see what becomes the next best thing!
Kayla Jennings-Rivera is a student in the NYU/Tisch Undergraduate Film & TV Department from the class of 2018.