Unsurprisingly at tonight’s PandoMonthly with Union Square Ventures Fred Wilson, Sarah Lacy brought up Zynga, and Wilson, an early investors in the now ailing company, defended its controversial founder, Mark Pincus.
Whether it be because of a longstanding personal history or because of his faith in Pincus’ business know-how, Wilson believes that he will somehow steer Zynga in the right direction.
These days it’s hard to read about Zynga and think, “Well, this is going to end okay.” The online games company, which gained initial popularity with games like Farmville, has not been faring so well. The company has consistently been missing its earnings by quite a large margin for over a year, and recently closed two of its biggest offices, laying off more than 500 employees.
So why does Wilson still believe? Well, Wilson and Pincus go way back. They’ve known each other for years, and thus he has seen his entrepreneurial abilities. “I love Mark. He’s a friend of mine,” he explained. “And I think he’s really smart.”
While others may think Pincus is a blowhard or a jerk, Wilson says that’s what makes him such a great entrepreneur. He’s blunt. He says what he wants. He gets things done.
Before they were Silicon Valley tycoons, the two would call each other at night and talk shop. The background noise for many phone calls would be Wilson’s three small children crying or melting down in some fashion. Pincus once said, “Fred, every time I call you it’s like a fucking ad for condoms.”
This is one reason Wilson has confidence in Pincus; he doesn’t pull any punches.
But if Pincus is so smart, why is Zynga doing so poorly? Wilson attributes this to the games business. While Farmville was wildly successful at the beginning, nothing has been able to even come close to matching its success. As of now, “they’ve been mostly working off of sequels,” he said.
Wilson won’t say if he knows what’s next for Farmville – online gambling? Mobile? Both were discussed at Zynga’s last shareholder meeting – but he refuses to believe the company is finished. It may look bleak now, but he still holds fast to Pincus’ abilities to right the company.
“[Zynga will] get through it,” Wilson said. “I just fundamentally have confidence that Mark will get it done.”
[Image via @elyrosenstock]