When The Profile Gets Ahead Of The Proof

I heard this line this past week, and it’s been like a catchy lyric playing over and over again inside my head: “Their profile is ahead of their proof.”

Written another way, when Profile > Proof.

It could apply to a company, a startup, a venture fund, and of course, an individual. And it reminded me the profile of any of these entities can be built up, pumped up, and broadcast widely for not much money or effort. The age of social media is in full-swing, as we all know too well — entirely digital brands are going direct to consumers, disrupting traditional brick and mortar stores; traditional media outlets such as newspapers and cable television are being replaced by celebrity- and influencer-driven “channels”; and “startup culture” is now defacto corporate culture, with early-stage, well-funded startups executives on the coasts commanding compensation packages at many multiples of what Continue reading "When The Profile Gets Ahead Of The Proof"

Bourdain On Writing

I’ve been listening to lots of old Bourdain interviews and episodes. This re-run of a 2016 Fresh Air interview caught my ear, specifically the excerpt below.

DAVIES: Now, the book and the article is this, like, grab-your-attention look at things you don’t know about what goes on inside the restaurant and all kinds of things. But, I mean, it’s – the writing is powerful. Had you been writing while you were cooking? Creative workshops, creative writing classes?

BOURDAIN: I had done a writer’s workshop with Gordon Lish, the notorious creative writing teacher, at one point many years earlier. But I’d never actually written. I was – I never had the time to sit there in my garret, you know, writing unpublished novels. I just didn’t have the time, and I think to a great extent, the reason “Kitchen Confidential” sounds like it does is I just did not Continue reading "Bourdain On Writing"

Response To A Thought-Provoking Tweetstorm

A stranger (hopefully a future friend, Pietro Invernizzi) on Twitter tagged me as part of his tweetstorm earlier today about his hope for how VCs and founders should interact around and during a pitch. It was a longer tweetstorm, and I felt it would be more effective for me to respond in longer-form, so I’m reproducing it here with my commentary:

0/ Thread: 10 things early stage VC investors could do better 🐺… based on recent articles and tweets by @willmcq @briannekimmel @HarryStebbings @fredwilson @eamonncarey @2lr @micahjay1 @StartupLJackson @chrija @semil

Ok, I’m ready…

1/ If you say too early, mean it. Telling founders it’s ‘too early’ is an easy rejection: it can always apply | it’s not about the team | it can’t be used to prove you wrong later. Still, if you brand yourself as early stage VC, why not give real reasons?

There’s nuance here. It depends Continue reading "Response To A Thought-Provoking Tweetstorm"

Thank You, Anthony Bourdain

I woke up a few minutes before 5am PST on Friday. I always look at my phone right away. I know it’s “not good for me,” but whatever. And, within seconds, I saw the news about Anthony Bourdain. I wasn’t surprised. Maybe I’m desensitized to the news, or the distance between real life and the characters we all play online. From his seminal book throughout his groundbreaking video work, he dropped little hint bombs of pain from many unhealed wounds of his past. This would come out as guilt, or nostalgia, or even disgust. In a way, his constitution reminded me a bit of Holden Caufield — he was trying to push us to see us the rest of the country & the world, but we kept sitting on our couch watching.

What has surprised me, however, is the continuous, organic, poetic, global, and piercing outpouring of love, sadness, grief, joy, and Continue reading "Thank You, Anthony Bourdain"

Quickly Unpacking Microsoft’s Acquisition Of GitHub

Satya strikes again. After being installed in 2014 as Microsoft’s new CEO, Nadella has turned around the Seattle ocean liner on a new course after the Ballmer regime. With Microsoft’s stock price (and technology brand) soaring of late, Nadella and his team have not been shy, with blockbuster platform acquisitions like Minecraft and LinkedIn, innovative product scoops like Accompli for email and Sunrise for calendar, and rebranding its very active, SF-based venture arm as “M12” to further its future technology agenda.

And yesterday, another feather in the cap — GitHub. Not yet profitable but invaluable to developers worldwide, the decade-old company bootstrapped, differentiated from formidable competitors GitLab and Atlassian’s BitBucket, weathered leadership upheavals, and eventually ingested lots of venture capital which helped them weather the challenges they faced. Buying that time and capital paid off, as Microsoft recently announced it would purchase GitHub for $7.5B.

Let’s Continue reading "Quickly Unpacking Microsoft’s Acquisition Of GitHub"

Seed Deal Flow Tsunami And The Quick Kill

If you read yesterday’s post, you can see just how insane the proliferation of seed financings have been. As a result, I personally cannot keep up with all the deal flow. This a common refrain among many seed investors in private. When I started investing and no one knew me, I would just invest in folks I knew well. There wasn’t a lot of noise for me. In the last five years, we’ve seen the number of micro-funds balloon from over 100 to over 500.

When I started back in 2013, I would try to respond to all the cold and “lukewarm” intros and investor referrals I received as a matter of courtesy. There is simply no way I could do that today (kids, other funds, commuting, etc), and I do not feel bad about this. Surely, some will read this as unfair, and I understand that — so I Continue reading "Seed Deal Flow Tsunami And The Quick Kill"

The VC Twilight Zone

Talk to any Bay Area VC in the last 24 hours, and the talk of the town among investors is universal: “What do you think of the SV Angel news?” Depending on your point of view, it is the perfect trigger for a conversation about the state of the Bay Area’s investment market. Let me be perfectly clear — I do not know anything about SV Angel’s inner workings, and in all of my own interactions with Kevin, Topher, Brian, and @pm (when he was there), SV Angel was extremely helpful and friendly as many people have attested to on social media. (I have never met Ron but hope to one day.)

From afar, in today’s environment of 500+ seed funds, SV Angel is held up as one of the canonical examples for its success at getting into superstar breakout companies (from Google all the way

Continue reading "The VC Twilight Zone"

Ramblings On Time Management

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for many months. Ironically, I’ve haven’t had the time for *this specific* post until now, today. I’m writing while all my three toddlers are napping and my wife went to work to get organized. I’ll likely finish this tonight after putting the kids to sleep.

This is a post about time — and various attempts at time management. I’ll write a bit about how I manage my time, but most of this post will be about how time has changed for me and my wife over the years.

Right now, Saturday afternoon, the house is quiet, I’m in my home office listening to Ted Wang’s Discover Weekly on Spotify. I am transported over a decade ago, living in San Francisco, dating a girl who is now my wife, and we had nothing to do most of the time. We’d sleep in, Continue reading "Ramblings On Time Management"

Different Ways To Invest In Startups: The Opportunity… And The Catch

The public’s interest in learning more about and participating in venture capital seems to grow more and more each week. I have written a few posts here lately sharing my own experience and point of view, but then realized we all may talk about “getting into VC” as if it is a monolithic endeavor — and that would not do us or the reader justice. In this post, I wanted to briefly break-down the different ways folks can invest today (*assuming they have access to capital — more on that below in a footnote) and benefits & drawbacks of each one. Note, everything comes with a catch…

Angel Investing
-The Opportunity: This is where truly 1,000x outcomes happen. You are your own LP and GP. Angels have been critical to startups’ initial funding for decades. New investors can build their portfolio this way.
-The Catch: You need to get the Continue reading "Different Ways To Invest In Startups: The Opportunity… And The Catch"

The Series A Round: “Could A Round By Any Other Name Smell As Sweet?”

Too many investors subscribe to the Patek Phillipe school of investing “you don’t own the companies’ problems, you merely hold onto them [until you] can get the company to the next round of investors.” — Micah Rosenbloom of Founder Collective, April 2018

If you’ve followed me on Twitter or this blog, you’ve likely seen me (too often) talk about this term — The Series A — again and again. Looking back on this, in a way, it’s silly; yet, for seed-stage investors and the founders we back, getting companies from seed to Series A is a really important milestone, a milestone I’ve likened to getting into the graduate school of one’s choice. The prestige of the firms who fashion themselves as classic Series A investors legitimize a startup’s ambitions a bit more with their large check and structured investment terms.

At a minimum, getting to the Series

Continue reading "The Series A Round: “Could A Round By Any Other Name Smell As Sweet?”"

The Series A Round: “Could A Round By Any Other Name Smell As Sweet?”

Too many investors subscribe to the Patek Phillipe school of investing “you don’t own the companies’ problems, you merely hold onto them [until you] can get the company to the next round of investors.” — Micah Rosenbloom of Founder Collective, April 2018

If you’ve followed me on Twitter or this blog, you’ve likely seen me (too often) talk about this term — The Series A — again and again. Looking back on this, in a way, it’s silly; yet, for seed-stage investors and the founders we back, getting companies from seed to Series A is a really important milestone, a milestone I’ve likened to getting into the graduate school of one’s choice. The prestige of the firms who fashion themselves as classic Series A investors legitimize a startup’s ambitions a bit more with their large check and structured investment terms.

At a minimum, getting to the Series

Continue reading "The Series A Round: “Could A Round By Any Other Name Smell As Sweet?”"

Investing Notes From The Inaugural Pre-Seed Summit

Earlier today, the folks from Afore Capital hosted their inaugural “Pre-Seed Summit” in San Francisco. About 150 people showed up, a healthy mix of founders, seed-stage investors and big fund VCs, and a bunch of LPs of various sizes. Some press showed up, too. “Pre-Seed” is somewhat of a controversial term in the investing world, triggering reactions questions its validity, its effectiveness, and even its contribution. While the term “Pre-Seed” may have been what grabbed the event headline, today’s conference was really about how seed continues to change and presents both opportunities and challenges for investors, founders, and LPs. Below are my brief notes & high-level takeaways from the sessions.

But, before I share those notes, let’s quickly revisit how the entire Bay Area seed stage ecosystem has been been reset. As I argued at the start of the year, there are no longer any rules about what constitutes seed Continue reading "Investing Notes From The Inaugural Pre-Seed Summit"

Investing Notes From The Inaugural Pre-Seed Summit

Earlier today, the folks from Afore Capital hosted their inaugural “Pre-Seed Summit” in San Francisco. About 150 people showed up, a healthy mix of founders, seed-stage investors and big fund VCs, and a bunch of LPs of various sizes. Some press showed up, too. “Pre-Seed” is somewhat of a controversial term in the investing world, triggering reactions questions its validity, its effectiveness, and even its contribution. While the term “Pre-Seed” may have been what grabbed the event headline, today’s conference was really about how seed continues to change and presents both opportunities and challenges for investors, founders, and LPs. Below are my brief notes & high-level takeaways from the sessions.

But, before I share those notes, let’s quickly revisit how the entire Bay Area seed stage ecosystem has been been reset. As I argued at the start of the year, there are no longer any rules about what constitutes seed Continue reading "Investing Notes From The Inaugural Pre-Seed Summit"

Quickly Unpacking Uber’s Acquisition Of Jump Bikes

Today it was revealed that Uber, the largest startup/private-unicorn juggernaut reported spent $200M (cash & stock) to acquire San Francisco’s Jump Bikes, a local startup founded all the way back in 2010. There are lots of interesting transit-junkie and international angles related to this transaction, which I’ll briefly unpack as follows:

1/ Urban congestion and city-level prioritization of bikesharing threaten short-haul ridesharing trips. At least in San Francisco from the Embarcadero to FiDi down to Mid-Market all the way into SOMA, driving around these areas in morning or mid-afternoon/evening rush hour is a death sentence. I’ve tweeted in the past that Uber and Lyft are essentially unusable in these areas. As a U.S. city would never go for congestion pricing, a variety of bikes (docked or not) and scooters (motorized or not) sprouted up with the help of both U.S. venture dollars and consumer behaviors exported from China. Continue reading "Quickly Unpacking Uber’s Acquisition Of Jump Bikes"

Quickly Unpacking Uber’s Acquisition Of Jump Bikes

Today it was revealed that Uber, the largest startup/private-unicorn juggernaut reported spent $200M (cash & stock) to acquire San Francisco’s Jump Bikes, a local startup founded all the way back in 2010. There are lots of interesting transit-junkie and international angles related to this transaction, which I’ll briefly unpack as follows:

1/ Urban congestion and city-level prioritization of bikesharing threaten short-haul ridesharing trips. At least in San Francisco from the Embarcadero to FiDi down to Mid-Market all the way into SOMA, driving around these areas in morning or mid-afternoon/evening rush hour is a death sentence. I’ve tweeted in the past that Uber and Lyft are essentially unusable in these areas. As a U.S. city would never go for congestion pricing, a variety of bikes (docked or not) and scooters (motorized or not) sprouted up with the help of both U.S. venture dollars and consumer behaviors exported from China. Continue reading "Quickly Unpacking Uber’s Acquisition Of Jump Bikes"

As Venture Grows, There Are More Ways To “Get Into The Carry”

Last week, I wrote about the one ingredient required to “get into” venture capital – context. For folks investing today, there are countless more opportunities to invest and some of them actually do not require that much context. It’s the subject for another post, but we seem to be living in a world of abundant capital, and more and more entities and families and the like seem to be interested in becoming limited partners. This has enabled an entirely new class of individual to 1/ become an investor and 2/ “get into the carry.”

If last week’s post stressed the importance of context as a prerequisite of being competitive in venture, this week’s post will stress the importance — and difficulty in accessing — the carried interest on a venture investment. (There are scores of posts and data on how venture math works, so I won’t reproduce Continue reading "As Venture Grows, There Are More Ways To “Get Into The Carry”"

The One Ingredient Required To Get Into Venture Capital

Earlier this week, a super-smart recent college grad pinged me to talk about a potential career in venture. I took the meeting. It was funny to me, in a way, that I myself had those meetings 7-8 years ago. I can’t remember all the advice I got back then. Lots of folks said to work at a larger company, or a company past the Series B stage. Lots of folks wanted me to interview, too, but while those were good conversations, they certainly didn’t proceed in the linear fashion I had hoped for.

Now, in 2018, with the tables turned, what would I tell this eager 23-year old whipsmart whiz?

Here’s what I told him, as he was mentioning he wanted to get operational experience *in order to* position himself to get into venture:

1/ I fundamentally disagree with the tactic of doing X in order to one day be Continue reading "The One Ingredient Required To Get Into Venture Capital"

The One Ingredient Required To Get Into Venture Capital

Earlier this week, a super-smart recent college grad pinged me to talk about a potential career in venture. I took the meeting. It was funny to me, in a way, that I myself had those meetings 7-8 years ago. I can’t remember all the advice I got back then. Lots of folks said to work at a larger company, or a company past the Series B stage. Lots of folks wanted me to interview, too, but while those were good conversations, they certainly didn’t proceed in the linear fashion I had hoped for.

Now, in 2018, with the tables turned, what would I tell this eager 23-year old whipsmart whiz?

Here’s what I told him, as he was mentioning he wanted to get operational experience *in order to* position himself to get into venture:

1/ I fundamentally disagree with the tactic of doing X in order to one day be Continue reading "The One Ingredient Required To Get Into Venture Capital"

Some Things Change And Some Things Stay The Same

A bit of personal news for readers of this Haystack blog — as it was announced earlier this week, starting Monday (tomorrow) I will become a Venture Partner with Lightspeed Venture Partners. I will continue to run Haystack independently as a single-GP seed fund. You can read more about the announcement in this blog post by Nakul Mandan, a long-time friend and current partner at Lightspeed.

With a change this big, it is important I briefly and clearly share some thoughts on the move:

First, I will continue to run Haystack independently and make seed investments. I believe seed is a collaborative stage of startup investing and fully intend to continue my history of writing relatively small checks into very early-stage companies. This is what I know best and what I love to do.

Second, I must commend and thank all of my friends and mentors at GGV Capital. Three years Continue reading "Some Things Change And Some Things Stay The Same"

Some Things Change And Some Things Stay The Same

A bit of personal news for readers of this Haystack blog — as it was announced earlier this week, starting Monday (tomorrow) I will become a Venture Partner with Lightspeed Venture Partners. I will continue to run Haystack independently as a single-GP seed fund. You can read more about the announcement in this blog post by Nakul Mandan, a long-time friend and current partner at Lightspeed.

With a change this big, it is important I briefly and clearly share some thoughts on the move:

First, I will continue to run Haystack independently and make seed investments. I believe seed is a collaborative stage of startup investing and fully intend to continue my history of writing relatively small checks into very early-stage companies. This is what I know best and what I love to do.

Second, I must commend and thank all of my friends and mentors at GGV Capital. Three years Continue reading "Some Things Change And Some Things Stay The Same"