Tim Devane’s Next Chapter

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been a bit over two years since Tim Devane joined us as a Principal at NextView.  Tim joined our investment team as the first non-founder, and also as the first NextView team member based in our New York office.  It’s not easy to pave a path with no one before you, but Tim has done just that and done it admirably.

Thanks in large part to Tim, the NextView family today includes exceptional founders of companies like Dia & Co, Timber, The Outline, and Parsec.  He’s been a champion and supporter of NextView’s portfolio broadly, a thoughtful voice in our investment team discussions, and a driving force in the continued growth of our presence in New York.  We’ve enjoyed watching Tim come into his own as a VC investor at NextView.

So it’s bittersweet for us to share the news that Continue reading "Tim Devane’s Next Chapter"

Tim Devane’s Next Chapter

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been a bit over two years since Tim Devane joined us as a Principal at NextView.  Tim joined our investment team as the first non-founder, and also as the first NextView team member based in our New York office.  It’s not easy to pave a path with no one before you, but Tim has done just that and done it admirably.

Thanks in large part to Tim, the NextView family today includes exceptional founders of companies like Dia & Co, Timber, The Outline, and Parsec.  He’s been a champion and supporter of NextView’s portfolio broadly, a thoughtful voice in our investment team discussions, and a driving force in the continued growth of our presence in New York.  We’ve enjoyed watching Tim come into his own as a VC investor at NextView.

So it’s bittersweet for us to share the news that Continue reading "Tim Devane’s Next Chapter"

The Road to Autonomous Vehicles & Our Investment in Optimus Ride

optimus Today Optimus Ride announced a $5.25M seed round of funding to continue developing their unique approach to autonomous transportation.  NextView is pleased to co-lead this round along with our friends at FirstMark Capital as well as participation by other investors, and I’m excited to join Optimus’s board. For those who follow my writings on my AgileVC blog or on Medium, you’ll know that I’ve been thinking about the autonomous vehicle space for some time.  I say “autonomous vehicles” rather than “driverless cars”… when my little daughter has a family of her own someday, the phrase “driverless car” will be an anachronism akin to “horseless carriage”. Optimus isn’t yet describing their plans in detail publicly, so I won’t be letting their cat out of the bag.  But I’m thrilled to be able to partner with an extraordinarily experienced and talented group of co-founders.  The Optimus team has its roots at MIT Continue reading "The Road to Autonomous Vehicles & Our Investment in Optimus Ride"

The Road to Autonomous Vehicles & Our Investment in Optimus Ride

Today Optimus Ride announced a $5.25M seed round of funding to continue developing their unique approach to autonomous transportation.  NextView is pleased to co-lead this round along with our friends at FirstMark Capital as well as participation by other investors, and I’m excited to join Optimus’s board.

For those who follow my writings on my AgileVC blog or on Medium, you’ll know that I’ve been thinking about the autonomous vehicle space for some time.  I say “autonomous vehicles” rather than “driverless cars”… when my little daughter has a family of her own someday, the phrase “driverless car” will be an anachronism akin to “horseless carriage”.

Optimus isn’t yet describing their plans in detail publicly, so I won’t be letting their cat out of the bag.  But I’m thrilled to be able to partner with an extraordinarily experienced and talented group of co-founders.  The Optimus team has its roots at MIT Continue reading "The Road to Autonomous Vehicles & Our Investment in Optimus Ride"

Autonomous Vehicles: Can You Get There From Here? (Part 2)

  jetsons_car This is the 2nd post in a series about self-driving vehicles and it explores how autonomous cars could become a reality.  Self-Driving Vehicles: The Future Always Takes Longer to Arrive is the 1st post and covers the state of the vehicle autonomy (circa mid 2016) and how we’ve gotten here.   =============

So what are the different paths towards commercially available self-driving cars?  The way forward includes not only advanced vehicles themselves but also potentially shifts in road infrastructure, laws and regulations, and even business models for “mobility.”

In my first post earlier this summer, I highlighted the fact that we’re still a ways off from truly autonomous vehicles, despite many decades of technological advances to assist drivers.  The “Auto-Pilot” capability in Tesla’s Model S is currently the most advanced semi-autonomous (NHTSA Level 2) system you can actually buy, but it still has many limitations and Continue reading "Autonomous Vehicles: Can You Get There From Here? (Part 2)"

Our Investment in The Outline

“Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude…”  – The Stranger, The Big Lebowski

Today we announced our investment in The Outline, a new digital media company founded by CEO Josh Topolsky.  The company plans to launch publicly later this year, but Josh talks about his vision for The Outline in this WSJ article.

We like to back authentic founders here at NextView… entrepreneurs who have experience and unique perspective on the market they’re trying to transform.  My colleague Tim Devane was the first one on our team to build a relationship with Josh, and Josh certainly fits this mold.  The internet is about 20 years old but most digital media companies simply replicate the model of legacy print media businesses only without the printing press.  Josh penned a widely read manifesto earlier this year that laid Continue reading "Our Investment in The Outline"

Our Investment in The Outline

Sam-Elliott1 “Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude…”  – The Stranger, The Big Lebowski Today we announced our investment in The Outline, a new digital media company founded by CEO Josh Topolsky.  The company plans to launch publicly later this year, but Josh talks about his vision for The Outline in this WSJ article. We like to back authentic founders here at NextView… entrepreneurs who have experience and unique perspective on the market they’re trying to transform.  My colleague Tim Devane was the first one on our team to build a relationship with Josh, and Josh certainly fits this mold.  The internet is about 20 years old but most digital media companies simply replicate the model of legacy print media businesses only without the printing press.  Josh penned a widely read manifesto earlier this year that laid Continue reading "Our Investment in The Outline"

Our Investment in The Outline

“Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude…”  – The Stranger, The Big Lebowski

Today we announced our investment in The Outline, a new digital media company founded by CEO Josh Topolsky.  The company plans to launch publicly later this year, but Josh talks about his vision for The Outline in this WSJ article.

We like to back authentic founders here at NextView… entrepreneurs who have experience and unique perspective on the market they’re trying to transform.  My colleague Tim Devane was the first one on our team to build a relationship with Josh, and Josh certainly fits this mold.  The internet is about 20 years old but most digital media companies simply replicate the model of legacy print media businesses only without the printing press.  Josh penned a widely read manifesto earlier this year that laid Continue reading "Our Investment in The Outline"

Self-Driving Vehicles: The Future Always Takes Longer to Arrive (Part 1)

Preface: As a consumer, I am excited by the prospect of autonomous vehicles and the individual and collective benefits they can provide.  As an investor, I am also bullish about the innovation wave already in its early innings around mobility and autonomy.  But a realistic understanding of the potential timeline for autonomous vehicle adoption is vital to decision making as a startup entrepreneur or investor in this area.   =========== Rome wasn’t built in a day.  In fact it wasn’t even built in a year or a decade, but rather a couple centuries.  Autonomous vehicles will become widespread a lot faster than that, but it always takes longer than you think for the future to arrive.  Fully autonomous vehicles (aka “Level 4” autonomy in NHTSA guidelines, where a car can navigate itself from A to B without any human involvement) won’t be generally available for “awhile”.  IMO “awhile” is a minimum of 5 years from today,
Continue reading "Self-Driving Vehicles: The Future Always Takes Longer to Arrive (Part 1)"

Self-Driving Vehicles: The Future Always Takes Longer to Arrive (Part 1)

Preface: As a consumer, I am excited by the prospect of autonomous vehicles and the individual and collective benefits they can provide.  As an investor, I am also bullish about the innovation wave already in its early innings around mobility and autonomy.  But a realistic understanding of the potential timeline for autonomous vehicle adoption is vital to decision making as a startup entrepreneur or investor in this area.  

===========

Rome wasn’t built in a day.  In fact it wasn’t even built in a year or a decade, but rather a couple centuries.  Autonomous vehicles will become widespread a lot faster than that, but it always takes longer than you think for the future to arrive.  Fully autonomous vehicles (aka “Level 4” autonomy in NHTSA guidelines, where a car can navigate itself from A to B without any human involvement) won’t be generally available for “awhile”.  IMO “awhile” is a minimum of 5 years from today,

Continue reading "Self-Driving Vehicles: The Future Always Takes Longer to Arrive (Part 1)"

What If Self-Driving Cars Actually Increase Car Ownership?

car-sunset Conventional wisdom is that when self-driving autonomous passenger cars arrive, they’re likely to decrease individual ownership of cars. If there’s a liquid supply of cars that can operate autonomously, one needn’t own a car… you could simply summon one on-demand from a fleet run by [Uber, Google, Apple, Ford, etc] and pay per use or subscription or whatever economic model emerges.  Nobody wants a car, they want “mobility” says this line of thinking. Let’s envision a future where cars are truly 100% self-driving and can operate autonomously (what’s known as Level 4 in NHTSA’s proposed framework).  Let’s assume that they are propelled by electricity or hydrogen or super-efficient gasoline hybrids or some other modality which eliminates or drastically mitigates the externalities associated with fossil fuel combustion.  Let’s further assume that there are legal and financial frameworks that support this technological reality, e.g. insurance and liability law permits companies to manufacture and Continue reading "What If Self-Driving Cars Actually Increase Car Ownership?"

Seduced By Growth, But Terminal Scale Still Matters

We’re off to a fresh start here at the beginning of 2016. Looking back at 2015, the standout theme in the VC/startup ecosystem was unicorn hunting. We started the year enraptured by the “Age of Unicorns” with this cover of Fortune in January 2015:

Illustration: Jeremy Enecio

But by the time we ended 2015, the headlines like “The Dangers Ahead if Tech Unicorns Get Gored (WSJ)” and “Regulators Look Into Mutual Funds Procedures for Valuing Startups (WSJ)“.  “Unicorn” went from being a brass ring to reach for to a term used with sarcasm or derision.  People started thinking of startup unicorns like this:

Illustration: Chris Silas Neal

Illustration for WSJ: Chris Silas Neal

What happened? Was this simply a shift in sentiment among the tech & business media? A realignment of valuations by late stage investors? The beginning of a tech downturn? We can’t paint all “unicorns” with the same Continue reading "Seduced By Growth, But Terminal Scale Still Matters"

Seduced By Growth, But Terminal Scale Still Matters

We’re off to a fresh start here at the beginning of 2016. Looking back at 2015, the standout theme in the VC/startup ecosystem was unicorn hunting. We started the year enraptured by the “Age of Unicorns” with this cover of Fortune in January 2015:

Illustration: Jeremy Enecio

But by the time we ended 2015, the headlines like “The Dangers Ahead if Tech Unicorns Get Gored (WSJ)” and “Regulators Look Into Mutual Funds Procedures for Valuing Startups (WSJ)“.  “Unicorn” went from being a brass ring to reach for to a term used with sarcasm or derision.  People started thinking of startup unicorns like this:
Illustration: Chris Silas Neal

Illustration for WSJ: Chris Silas Neal

What happened? Was this simply a shift in sentiment among the tech & business media? A realignment of valuations by late stage investors? The beginning of a tech downturn? We can’t paint all “unicorns” with the same Continue reading "Seduced By Growth, But Terminal Scale Still Matters"

Square IPO: Is Square A Good Payments Business?

< section class=" section--body"> < div class="section-divider layoutSingleColumn"> Square filed its S-1 several weeks ago and is now in the middle of its IPO road show process. There’s been ample coverage in the popular press of course highlighting everything from the company’s revenue growth, lack of profitability, and the well-publicized fact that founder/CEO Jack Dorsey is also CEO of Twitter so would theoretically be running two public companies simultaneously. Square-Payments-600x292 This past Friday Square also filed an initial pricing range of $11-13/sh which would give them an enterprise value less than their last round of financing ($6B post-money).  A bunch of articles came out saying that Square had “priced” their IPO below last round and this was something terrible ranging from the bursting of a tech bubble to the coming of the apocalypse.  This was clickbait at best or bad journalism at worst.  Anyone who’s familiar with the IPO process knows that companies state an “initial” range as they begin their road Continue reading "Square IPO: Is Square A Good Payments Business?"

Hardware, IoT, and the Long Arc of the Internet

internetfridgeWe’re preparing to make our third investment with a hardware component here at NextView.  This company will remain in stealth mode for at least a little while and it isn’t my place to divulge their plans, but we’re very excited about the founding team, market opportunity, and syndicate we will be part of. We very nearly missed the opportunity to invest in this startup even though it’s located in our backyard and the founders knew NextView by reputation and through other entrepreneurs.  “I didn’t know you guys invested in hardware stuff” one of the co-founders said when we first met, following an introduction from our co-investor in this round.  I described our existing investments in Whoop and Konekt and our thinking more broadly on businesses that have a hardware component.  But it occurred to me we haven’t talked publicly a great deal about our view of hardware businesses. How does physical stuff fit Continue reading "Hardware, IoT, and the Long Arc of the Internet"

Playing Startup

playtimeI’ve observed what may be an emerging trend, at least in some startups, that I find somewhat unsettling.  It has an impact at an individual level, a company level, and an ecosystem level.  This is not an easy topic to discuss without coming off like a jerk or a crusty old dude, so I wanted to share two quick stories about my own career below.  But I think it’s important to discuss, particularly given today’s heady environment for startups. My first startup job was as an early employee at PayPal, where I took a job at the end of ‘1999 and started a few months later in 2000.  When I first started working there, I only made it home for dinner with my cohabiting girlfriend (now wife) probably 3-5 times a month.  I worked, usually at the office not remotely, at least part of every weekend for the first year or so. I started Continue reading "Playing Startup"

Starting a New “Walkabout”

walkaboutSome VCs describe themselves as “thematic” or “thesis-driven” investors.  These folks typically hone in on an industry sector or type of company, immerse themselves in the subject, meet as many similar companies as possible, and then invest in some.

Other VCs can be described as “opportunistic” which sounds like they have no particular strategy or rely on random chance, which isn’t really the case.  The reality is that there’s countless really smart founders out there thinking about a particular market opportunity 110% of their time.  So “opportunistically” being open minded about all the great teams of co-founders and broad range great market opportunities makes some sense.

There are great VCs of both stripes and in practice most fall somewhere along a continuum where purely opportunistic and purely thematic are at opposite ends.  I certainly am somewhere in the middle.  There are times when I’m focused more intently on a Continue reading "Starting a New “Walkabout”"

Our Investment in Konekt: Picks & Shovels for the IoT Gold Rush

Konekt

Konekt

Today Konekt announced their $1.3M seed round.  We were pleased to lead this round along with a great group of other co-investors.  And I’m excited to collaborate with co-founders Ben Forgan and Patrick Wilbur as they build their IoT connectivity platform.

Konekt is creating a turnkey platform for makers of internet connected devices to integrate cellular connectivity.  While some devices in the IoT world will utilize short-range connectivity options like WiFi or Bluetooth tethering, a great many will need the flexibility and ease of deployment that connecting directly to cellular data networks can provide.  This need is doubly true when you consider dramatic growth of both the number of devices and breadth of applications for IoT.

As it turns out, whether your building and deploying 100 devices or 100,000, getting your device to connect via wireless data networks isn’t so simple.  You first have to figure out which hardware module to integrate into your device to get a cellular radio in it.  Then you have to strike a deal with a wireless carrier or MVNO to provide service.  Finally you typically use antiquated protocols to try to provision each device and actually get the data back from it in an intelligent fashion.  It’s all doable… just hard, full of friction, and particularly challenging for small and medium sized device makers.

Konekt takes care of the full “stack” for you from the hardware modules to connectivity with major carriers to a simple to use REST API to manage all your devices and pipe the data back into your core application(s).  It was possible 5+ years ago to integrate payments into your software app… it was just a pain in the ass to connect to a gateway, get approved for a credit card merchant account, figure out PCI compliance, etc.  Then Stripe built a big business eliminating much of that friction.  We believe Konekt has the potential to similarly take friction out of IoT connectivity, in cellular data today and potentially other emerging data networks of the future.

The IoT space has been of interest to us for some time.  We’ve invested in some companies making an internet connected device, but I had been looking in particular for what we call “picks and shovels” businesses riding on the platform wave of IoT.  Just as Levi Strauss realized he could build a great business as the enabler of gold prospectors, we want to be investing both in companies creating devices and those enabling other IoT companies.  So we were pleased to meet Ben and Patrick last fall and are very excited about the future of Konekt.

The post Our Investment in Konekt: Picks & Shovels for the IoT Gold Rush appeared first on AGILEVC.

Why Entrepreneur Advisors Matter

As the holiday season is behind us and 2015 is firmly underway, we wanted to take a moment to both announce and celebrate the collection of top entrepreneurs who have agreed to return as our Entrepreneur Advisors. These individuals have all graciously agreed​ to continue their prior commitments to NextView-backed startups and entrepreneurs.

We’re excited and feel incredibly lucky to have them back on board:

  • Niraj Shah & Steve Conine – Co-founders of Wayfair
  • David Cancel – Co-founder/CEO of Driftt (Co-founder/CEO of Performable at the time he first joined our group of advisors, after which he became HubSpot’s Chief Product Officer following and acquisition of Performable.)
  • Mike Baker – Co-Founder/CEO of DataXu
  • Brian Shin – Founder/CEO of Visible Measures
  • Stephano Kim – SVP & Chief Data Strategist of Turner (President of [x+1] at the time he first joined our group of advisors)

 

​The Purpose of Entrepreneur Advisors​

We frequently tell entrepreneurs that advisors who are just names on a page are kind of a waste of time. We believe the same is true for us here at NextView, which is why we think it’s important to take a second and explain what NextView’s own “Entrepreneur Advisors” do.

When Rob, David, and I started NextView nearly five years ago we thought it was important to enlist a small group of talented entrepreneurs as we built and helped our portfolio over time. These were all folks we’d known for a number of years, and people we respected deeply. Their expertise is focused across the range of software ​and​ internet sectors that we focus on here at NextView​ –​ from SaaS to e-commerce, ad-tech to mobile.

At their core all of ​the folks ​listed above ​are builders​ — the​y​ have all founded and run exceptional software and internet companies, in some cases multiple times. But we also believe in the ​”​keiretsu​”​ principle here at NextView. In parallel with their entrepreneur advisor role​s​ with us, many of these individuals are also active angel investors themselves independent of NextView​,​ or​ else they​ have relationships with other companies or investment groups. ​Thus, we can all work in concert within the broader startup ecosystem.

So if they’re not just names on a page, how are these entrepreneur advisors involved with us at NextView and our portfolio companies? Practically speaking they help us in three ways:

  1. New Investment Opportunities – These advisors sometimes introduce us to new entrepreneurs and new companies we might invest in​.​
  2. Insight During Our Due Diligence – We frequently touch base with these people when we are looking at a potential new investment where the advisor has unique insight. In some cases​,​ the advisors’ companies form business relationships with startups Continue reading "Why Entrepreneur Advisors Matter"