An investor’s view of AI in 2018


Artificial Intelligence has become a buzzword for investors of late, many of whom recognize its enormous potential to become the most game-changing technology since the industrial revolution. Indeed, the projected impact of AI is likely to be greater than all prior tech trends combined, and savvy investors would be wise not to miss out.

From an investor’s point of view, you can divide the AI sector into a few major sub-sectors: infrastructure, algorithms, platforms, and applications. The infrastructure segment includes technologies and companies that provide the underpinnings enabling AI: machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, and computer vision, including cloud infrastructure, specialized semiconductors, large-volume storage devices, low-latency databases, edge-based computing elements, and more.

On the algorithm side, one would primarily count neural nets, classification, and clustering algorithms, good old Bayesian networks, and hidden Markov models.

AI platforms implement algorithm families on proprietary or standard infrastructure, allowing rapid development Continue reading "An investor’s view of AI in 2018"

Spice VC is the first to use blockchain to solve the liquidity problem


There is much talk about new forms of investment, but very little about the issues dogging the investment ecosystem over the past decade: the shrinking amount of liquidity on the exit, and the length of the illiquidity period. Spice VC wants to change that, and it is turning to the blockchain as the answer to the liquidity problem.

Today, Spice has announced the launch of the first initial coin offering (ICO) for a VC fund that can accept funds from pre-qualified investors (per country regulations, under Reg D Rule 506(c) in the U.S.), offering immediate liquidity.

“We believe the 7 to 10 years of illiquidity is the biggest limitation of VC funds and solving that has a wide effect on the economics of the industry,” Tal Elyashiv, cofounder and managing partner at Spice VC, told me. “Until now, the privilege of investing in tech was reserved for very few. Continue reading "Spice VC is the first to use blockchain to solve the liquidity problem"

Spice VC is the first to use blockchain to solve the liquidity problem


There is much talk about new forms of investment, but very little about the issues dogging the investment ecosystem over the past decade: the shrinking amount of liquidity on the exit, and the length of the illiquidity period. Spice VC wants to change that, and it is turning to the blockchain as the answer to the liquidity problem.

Today, Spice has announced the launch of the first initial coin offering (ICO) for a VC fund that can accept funds from pre-qualified investors (per country regulations, under Reg D Rule 506(c) in the U.S.), offering immediate liquidity.

“We believe the 7 to 10 years of illiquidity is the biggest limitation of VC funds and solving that has a wide effect on the economics of the industry,” Tal Elyashiv, cofounder and managing partner at Spice VC, told me. “Until now, the privilege of investing in tech was reserved for very few. Continue reading "Spice VC is the first to use blockchain to solve the liquidity problem"

5 emerging female VCs you should know about


According to a report conducted by TechCrunch, only 7 percent of partners at top VC firms are women. While there is an apparent gender divide amongst male and female VCs, a new study shows that women are better investors than men. The big investment firm Fidelity found that female investors outperformed men by 0.4 percent in the past year. The firm also discovered that female investors outdid men last year when generating a return on their investments.

Female VCs are also being recognized for bringing expansive knowledge to the world of investing due to their professional backgrounds. Many women investors also have extensive experience in PR, marketing, product management, and even retail. For example, Jessica Livingston, founding partner at Y Combinator (one of the world’s most successful startup incubators), was previously VP of marketing at the investment bank Adams Harkness, where she managed an award-winning rebranding of

Continue reading "5 emerging female VCs you should know about"

Target Global launches €100M fund focused on early stage startups in Europe and Israel


Target Global — an international VC firm based in Berlin — has announced today the first closing of a new €100 million fund.

Focused on early stage startups, the firm’s Early Stage Fund I will invest in both seed and A rounds. It is expected to invest in up to 20 companies throughout the life of the fund.

Run out of Target Global’s main office in Berlin, the fund will concentrate on investing in startups located in Germany and Israel. While the lion’s share will go to early stage startups in those two regions — which are personified by the fast-growing and important startup hubs in Berlin and Tel Aviv — it will also allocate some capital for investments across the EU.

“Both cities are dynamic tech hubs and each brings a unique skill-set to the table,” Shmuel Chafets, general partner at Target Global, said. “Target Global’s ES Fund will Continue reading "Target Global launches €100M fund focused on early stage startups in Europe and Israel"

Local tech ecosystems: Stop comparing yourselves to Silicon Valley


From Silicon Alley to Silicon Beach, existing tech hubs and emerging ones long to be seen like the Valley: the self-proclaimed epicenter of all things tech. But why is that? When did living in San Francisco become a necessary prerequisite for being a startup founder or employee? As a New Yorker, I’m a bit biased to the Big Apple — the hustle and bustle of the city and the intrinsic drive that people have here opposite of our laid-back counterparts in the Bay. There are hundreds of tech companies that make up our local ecosystem, yet we still seem to come second to San Francisco. A big blow to the empire state, but an even bigger blow to cities on the horizon. Emerging hubs like Miami, Raleigh/Durham, Dallas, Nashville, Cincinnati, Detroit and others deserve the same effort, education, and access that we pour into the Bay. Tomorrow’s next tech leaders and talent Continue reading "Local tech ecosystems: Stop comparing yourselves to Silicon Valley"

Local tech ecosystems: Stop comparing yourselves to Silicon Valley


From Silicon Alley to Silicon Beach, existing tech hubs and emerging ones long to be seen like the Valley: the self-proclaimed epicenter of all things tech. But why is that? When did living in San Francisco become a necessary prerequisite for being a startup founder or employee?

As a New Yorker, I’m a bit biased to the Big Apple — the hustle and bustle of the city and the intrinsic drive that people have here opposite of our laid-back counterparts in the Bay. There are hundreds of tech companies that make up our local ecosystem, yet we still seem to come second to San Francisco. A big blow to the empire state, but an even bigger blow to cities on the horizon.

Emerging hubs like Miami, Raleigh/Durham, Dallas, Nashville, Cincinnati, Detroit and others deserve the same effort, education, and access that we pour into the Bay. Tomorrow’s next tech leaders and talent Continue reading "Local tech ecosystems: Stop comparing yourselves to Silicon Valley"

Local tech ecosystems: Stop comparing yourselves to Silicon Valley


From Silicon Alley to Silicon Beach, existing tech hubs and emerging ones long to be seen like the Valley: the self-proclaimed epicenter of all things tech. But why is that? When did living in San Francisco become a necessary prerequisite for being a startup founder or employee?

As a New Yorker, I’m a bit biased to the Big Apple — the hustle and bustle of the city and the intrinsic drive that people have here opposite of our laid-back counterparts in the Bay. There are hundreds of tech companies that make up our local ecosystem, yet we still seem to come second to San Francisco. A big blow to the empire state, but an even bigger blow to cities on the horizon.

Emerging hubs like Miami, Raleigh/Durham, Dallas, Nashville, Cincinnati, Detroit and others deserve the same effort, education, and access that we pour into the Bay. Tomorrow’s next tech leaders and talent Continue reading "Local tech ecosystems: Stop comparing yourselves to Silicon Valley"

Founder Institute wants to launch a generation of space entrepreneurs


As kids, becoming an astronaut is a great aspiration for many of us. By the time we grow up, though, the dream of exploring space fades, and we learn that the vast majority of the things being launched into space are satellites.

In coming years, the dawning of a new space age could change that. Aspiring astronauts who never achieved their childhood dreams may find a nice consolation prize: creating a space exploration startup.

The Founder Institute is ready to help. It announced today its Star Fellow program to offer training and mentorship to entrepreneurs looking to launch space-related companies. The program will offer access to the Institute’s startup-launch courses, support from mentors in the space exploration industry, and a shot at pitching investors such as Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

Formed in 2009, the Founder Institute serves aspiring entrepreneurs in more than 170 cities across 60 countries. The nearly 3,000 graduates of its program have Continue reading "Founder Institute wants to launch a generation of space entrepreneurs"

Founder Institute wants to launch a generation of space entrepreneurs


As kids, becoming an astronaut is a great aspiration for many of us. By the time we grow up, though, the dream of exploring space fades, and we learn that the vast majority of the things being launched into space are satellites.

In coming years, the dawning of a new space age could change that. Aspiring astronauts who never achieved their childhood dreams may find a nice consolation prize: creating a space exploration startup.

The Founder Institute is ready to help. It announced today its Star Fellow program to offer training and mentorship to entrepreneurs looking to launch space-related companies. The program will offer access to the Institute’s startup-launch courses, support from mentors in the space exploration industry, and a shot at pitching investors such as Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

Formed in 2009, the Founder Institute serves aspiring entrepreneurs in more than 170 cities across 60 countries. The nearly 3,000 graduates of its program have Continue reading "Founder Institute wants to launch a generation of space entrepreneurs"

Founder Institute wants to launch a generation of space entrepreneurs


As kids, becoming an astronaut is a great aspiration for many of us. By the time we grow up, though, the dream of exploring space fades, and we learn that the vast majority of the things being launched into space are satellites. In coming years, the dawning of a new space age could change that. Aspiring astronauts who never achieved their childhood dreams may find a nice consolation prize: creating a space exploration startup. The Founder Institute is ready to help. It announced today its Star Fellow program to offer training and mentorship to entrepreneurs looking to launch space-related companies. The program will offer access to the Institute’s startup-launch courses, support from mentors in the space exploration industry, and a shot at pitching investors such as Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Formed in 2009, the Founder Institute serves aspiring entrepreneurs in more than 170 cities across 60 countries. The nearly 3,000 graduates of its program have Continue reading "Founder Institute wants to launch a generation of space entrepreneurs"

3 challenges facing enterprise chatbot developers looking for investors

Greed
Chatbot companies have raised over $140 million in the past six years. Over 60 percent of the funding came in 2015 and 2016 as the chatbot craze quickly took over Silicon Valley. The media remains optimistic about the potential of bots, but venture capitalists and other investors are increasingly wary of the proliferation of startups in the space.

1. Entrepreneurs underestimate the complexity of enterprise bots

“These days, every other pitch I get is some kind of bot company,” said Ping Li on an enterprise bot panel at the recent O’Reilly Bot Day conference. Li is a partner at Accel, which previously invested in Facebook and is now an active investor in Slack. Joining him on the panel were executives from Verizon, Kohl’s, and Jet. Their collective complaint? Bot entrepreneurs building for the enterprise often fail to understand the complexities of the workflows they’re trying to automate away. While Slack Continue reading "3 challenges facing enterprise chatbot developers looking for investors"

How this game company boosted profits sixfold without needing venture capital

War Robots from Pixonic.
We’ve come a long way since the soft launch of our mobile game, Walking War Robots, on iOS in 2014 — our monthly revenues have grown to $1.3 million, and we released on Google Play. Over these years, we repeatedly encountered problems that allowed us to get where we’re at now. Based on our previous experiences, we developed a methodology for creating and evolving our game that relies heavily on rigorous re-evaluation of data and analytics, but on on constant  experimentation within the game that allowed us to test new hypotheses and make it more fun. As such, we split the game’s releases into several categories while developing WWR:
  • Content-releases to improve user experience;
  • Content-releases with new types of robots and other staff that affected the economics and meta of the game;
  • Tweaks to the gameplay and interface;
Each content type brings us a step closer to making Continue reading "How this game company boosted profits sixfold without needing venture capital"

How this game company boosted profits sixfold without needing venture capital


We’ve come a long way since the soft launch of our mobile game, Walking War Robots, on iOS in 2014 — our monthly revenues have grown to $1.3 million, and we released on Google Play. Over these years, we repeatedly encountered problems that allowed us to get where we’re at now.

Based on our previous experiences, we developed a methodology for creating and evolving our game that relies heavily on rigorous re-evaluation of data and analytics, but on on constant  experimentation within the game that allowed us to test new hypotheses and make it more fun.

As such, we split the game’s releases into several categories while developing WWR:

  • Content-releases to improve user experience;
  • Content-releases with new types of robots and other staff that affected the economics and meta of the game;
  • Tweaks to the gameplay and interface;

Each content type brings us a step closer to making Continue reading "How this game company boosted profits sixfold without needing venture capital"

The VC funding drought driving adtech to consolidate

vc-drought-adtech
Adtech consolidation is no longer just talk, but a reality that hundreds of small tech companies propped up by VC funding are about to face. Industry leaders have been talking about the impending consolidation of adtech for years, and we’re all still waiting. However, after much talk, adtech consolidation is finally going to happen — and it all comes down to funding. The reality is that hundreds of small technology companies are being propped up by VC dollars that were given with the huge revenue potential in the advertising sector in mind, but without a full understanding of the sector. But the market is starting to shift, leading VCs to reduce funding to adtech companies and forcing the industry to consolidate. This is actually good news. The market will recalibrate, and companies that offer an innovative and differentiated suite of products and services will be poised to grow.

VC inflation, fragmentation,
Ido Pollak - headshot
Continue reading "The VC funding drought driving adtech to consolidate"

Shrinking financial markets will drive consolidation in martech

financial
There is a crunch in capital funding on the horizon. The fact that many technology companies are waiting years between fundraising rounds is already indicative of this investment slowdown. CEOs I speak with are either feeling the pain themselves as they try to raise capital, or, if they raised money in the last 18 months, are thankful that they raised a round before banks and VCs started tightening their belts. One reason for this crunch is that the forecast for economic growth in the U.S. isn’t rosy — we’re looking at minimal growth between now and 2018, only about a 2.2 percent annual increase in GDP. This will have a significant impact on corporate profits in the U.S. for the next few years, as public companies face stronger barriers to growth, including rising labor costs and a stronger dollar. On top of the crunch of available Continue reading "Shrinking financial markets will drive consolidation in martech"

Fewer deals and smaller checks: Startups suffered in Q1 as first-time financing fell 31%

martech-2015-funding-exits-money
While it’s never easy for entrepreneurs to convince venture capitalists to invest in their new companies, it was especially difficult during the first quarter of this year. Fewer startups received first-time funding, and those that were fortunate to do so saw smaller checks. For the first three months of 2016, initial funding deals declined 16 percent to 297, and the total dollars invested fell 31 percent to $1.7 billion, according to the latest MoneyTree report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association (based on data from Thomson Reuters). Moreover, the average amount for first-time financing dropped 17 percent from $6.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2015 to $5.7 million in this quarter. Source: MoneyTree Report

Source: The MoneyTree Report

Of the $1.7 billion of initial investments, software startups garnered $666 million (39 percent) across 121 deals. The next closest industries were media and entertainment, biotechnology, consumer products and services, and IT services, in descending
Funding by industry 2016 Q1
Continue reading "Fewer deals and smaller checks: Startups suffered in Q1 as first-time financing fell 31%"

VCs raised billions in Q1 even as they made fewest investments in 3 years

Q1 2016 VC deals
At first blush, a review of venture capital dealmaking during the first quarter of 2016 suggests an industry gone mad. VC firms raised the highest amount of capital raised in more than decade, even as they made the lowest number of investments in three years. What gives? The Q1 2016 Venture Pulse Report issued today by CB Insights and KPMG provides some method to this madness. On Monday, the National Venture Capital Association had reported that U.S VC firms raised $12 billion across 57 different funds to invest in startups, calling it the largest amount raised in 10 years. KPMG and CB Insights did not specify a figure for the amount raised by firms, but called the billions raised the most since the dot com craziness of 2000. Regardless of the final amount, we’re talking about a vast amount of capital ready to be invested. For instance, Founders Fund raised
Q1 2016 Vc funding by quarter
VC investments 2011-2016
Q1 2016 header
10 biggest deals
Continue reading "VCs raised billions in Q1 even as they made fewest investments in 3 years"

VCs raised billions in Q1 even as they made fewest investments in 3 years


At first blush, a review of venture capital dealmaking during the first quarter of 2016 suggests an industry gone mad.

VC firms raised the highest amount of capital raised in more than a decade, even as they made the lowest number of investments in three years. What gives? The Q1 2016 Venture Pulse Report issued today by CB Insights and KPMG provides some method to this madness.

On Monday, the National Venture Capital Association had reported that U.S VC firms raised $12 billion across 57 different funds to invest in startups, calling it the largest amount raised in 10 years. KPMG and CB Insights did not specify a figure for the amount raised by firms, but called the billions raised the most since the dot-com craziness of 2000. Regardless of the final amount, we’re talking about a vast amount of capital ready to be invested. For instance, Founders Fund raised

Q1 2016 Vc funding by quarter
VC investments 2011-2016
Q1 2016 header
10 biggest deals
Continue reading "VCs raised billions in Q1 even as they made fewest investments in 3 years"

323 marketing tech startups fetched over $11B from VCs in 2015 (research)


In 2015, marketing tech swelled in deal sizes, frequency, and valuations like never before. 2016 is off to a similar start. In a new MoneyTree Report from PWC and the National Venture Capital Associate, VCs cooled on later-stage growth investments, particularly in tech, at the end of last year. Whether that’s due to fluctuating financial markets, markdowns from institutional investors, global conflicts, or other factors, investors are shifting the model to value revenue over growth in the later stages.

But it’s the exact opposite for new funding. VCs are still stepping on the gas for early and seed stage companies, particularly in marketing tech. We’ve tracked every one of those investments, and they’re starting to paint a clear picture of what it means for marketers, CMOs, CIOs, and even sales teams.

Namely, you better step up your data analytics game, stat.

In a new VB Insight report on

2015 totals
Continue reading "323 marketing tech startups fetched over $11B from VCs in 2015 (research)"