Faces Are The Key To Success For Social Platforms

Josh Elman is a partner at Greylock Partners. He has extensive operational experience working at social networks & platforms such as Linkedin, Twitter & Facebook.

We are honored that he will be one of ~80 expert speakers at our next LDV Vision Summit May 24 & 25 in NYC. We are starting our fireside chat with Josh virtually and hope you join us at our summit next month to hear the extended live version.

Evan: What is your favorite camera today and why? What do you think will be your favorite camera in 20 years?

Josh: My favorite camera today is my iPhone. It’s my favorite because it’s the one that’s with me all the time. It’s in my hands a lot (too often?!) so whenever I come across something new or a moment I want to remember, I just open the camera and take it. Sometimes I share pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc but most of the time I just take them for me. My camera roll is full of random moments of my days – mostly amazing memories.

In 20 years I think my favorite camera will still be the one that’s with me all the time. I’m guessing it will be built into my glasses. Wouldn’t it be cool if all I had to do was think about saving a moment and it's automatically saved? Or have all moments be recalled with just a thought? Or will there be flying cameras around us at all times capturing ourselves in the activity instead of only from our vantage point? That would be cool too.

Evan: You had extensive work experience at social networks & platforms such as Linkedin, Twitter & Facebook. As a partner at Greylock, you have invested in networks and platforms such as Medium, Meerkat, and WhoSay. They all leverage visual content. What are the most valuable attributes of visual content which exponentially drive network effects?

Josh: What people love about social platforms is that most of the content they read, interact with, and share is personal. It’s intimate. It’s authentically written and shared by another person.

Faces are the key to social platforms – whether it’s looking at pictures that someone else took of you (very popular in early Facebook) or the now ubiquitous selfie. Profile pictures and avatars frame every single post on Facebook, Twitter and more – and in eye tests, we’ve seen that users linger first over the face/avatar before reading the content.

LinkedIn took many years to add photos to profiles – for exactly this reason – in a professional context, they were worried that faces would color how someone perceived the profile.

Evan: You wrote a great Medium article looking back at 2015 and forward to 2016. You believe that the days of Geocities and Myspace were more emotionally expressive and that we have lost some of that online. What might be some examples of more expressive activities that you would like added to your daily life today and tomorrow?

Josh: In the real world, we express ourselves all the time – by the clothes we wear, by what we carry, jewelry, shoes, and more. We decorate our personal spaces in the same way – colors of paint, style of furniture, art and posters on the wall, accessories everywhere.

In the days of Geocities and MySpace, everyone who participated in those platforms had a space online they could decorate however they wanted. People did crazy things with backgrounds, fonts, and sounds. In today’s online social systems, we can differentiate ourselves by the content we share, but it’s very constraining – every profile looks nearly the same, you can customize your profile picture and maybe a banner.

When I used to go to someone’s MySpace page, I could learn so much about them just by the look of the page – whether it had ponies or goth skulls all over it. I’d love to see that return to our social platforms so you can get to know people much more visually and expressively.

Evan: You meet a ton of new entrepreneurs everyday but you only invest in a small percentage of the people you meet. What are the most important personality traits of entrepreneurs that you prefer investing in?

Josh: I meet so many entrepreneurs every week and month, and given how passionate everyone is, I often wish I could work with them all. What I get most excited by is when someone paints a vision of how they believe the world will work in a few years, and how they are building the products and services that will enable that.

The best visions are incredibly intoxicating. But beyond just having a great vision, I look for someone who is very pragmatic, and who understands how to break this down into just the first step, then maybe the next step, and the step after that to show progress towards that goal.

We often use the term “Learner” to describe the founders we most enjoy funding and working with. They are people who treat everything they do, and everyone they meet as an incredible learning opportunity to get more information to build their dreams faster.

Evan: What are you most looking forward to at our LDV Vision Summit?  

Josh: I’m very excited to meet all of the people thinking about computer vision, machine learning, and how these great innovations can be applied to make products that change people’s lives. It’s rare to see so many great people come together around one important topic like this.

Evan: I look forward to speaking with Josh and all of you in more detail during our fireside chat at our LDV Vision Summit in NYC on May 24 & 25 [50% discount off tickets until April 30]. We try to make our sessions very interactive and look forward to your questions.

Other expert speakers at our Summit are from Google, Refinery29, Facebook, Cornell Tech, Qualcomm, First Round, Lytro, Greylock Partners, Olapic, Quartz, Mapillary, Microsoft Research, CakeWorks, NBCUniversal, RRE Ventures, Magic Leap, Mine, Samsung, Enlighted, Flickr, IBM Watson, and many more….

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