The Butter Thesis

In USVwe speak a lot about our investment thesis. The USV thesis is a set of ideas that has guided our investing through the years. It’s a tool we use to help ourselves understand what to search for, and to assist businesses who fit into it to find us.

Despite all the writing we’ve done on the thesis through the years, some sections of the it stay known, but unwritten. One of these is what I like to call”The Butter Thesis”.

“Butter” is the term we use to describe experiences & interactions which are just so smooth. Hard to define officially, but you know it when you see it feel it.

Butter can use to dev tools, enterprise/b2b goods, and consumer products.

Tools which are just so easy and enjoyable to use (and useful!) That you can’t help build together. Or, the first time you set up Cloudflare and your website only gets fast and the DDOS only stops. Or , Ruby on Rails and jQuery. The category-defining tools of every era of growth have succeeded in large part due to their Buttery-ness.

B2B Butter is Airtable and Slack (and indeed, Google Docs, though that is less exciting ). Or in thinner vertical, Splice. Or, in a concealed horizontal, Carta. Tools which make working together so much easier — like, difficult to imagine what it was like before they existed.

On the other hand, Butter means end-user experiences which are frictionless and joyous. By way of instance, I recently went to China and was blown away by the QR Code encounter — directly butter where you go, linking the actual world to the internet world. Coinbase is Butter for Crypto. Amazon Prime is Butter for e-Commerce.

Building for butter means knowing that each and every step of the encounter can be honed, smoothed and improved, to the point that it is so good you just can not take it. Butter is deceptively easy. A single ingredient that nonetheless does so much.

Sounds simple, does not it?! Perhaps this is obvious and is not that deep. Nevertheless, it is not easy to pull off, and really extraordinary when it’s accomplished.


  1. indeed!

    I had come from using Google Hangouts (currently Hangouts Meet) for years, and more recently Slack video conferencing and it was nice to jump into Zoom.

    1 issue is downloading a native client which Hangouts/Meet skipped but linking meetings using a url is significantly easier than requesting access.

  2. Speaking of Nurx watched their commercial I think on CNN last night.

    An interesting activity for your next all hands company meeting (with founders investments) held at USV meeting space.

    Create a chart of what you think the butter is (what you’re saying here in part) and then offer those attending the opportunity to state (without knowing what you mentioned ) what the butter is from their perspective.

    Then update the graph with’what we mentioned…what they said’ etc.. If multiple attendees from the same company each gets a chance (no cash no prizes though).

    Lard, and often hard lard, that’s the typical experience in the world of bits.

    Great post Nick. So correct.

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