christine’s brain turned 4 today!
christine’s brain turned 4 today!
Why does a $2.6 billion fund make seed investments? Good question from Leena Rao at Techcrunch!
Quick note here before I jump in to remind you that I’m not your lawyer (in fact I’m not a lawyer at all). I’m not offering legal advice. You have your own lawyer for that…
I’ve seen all sorts of variations on vacation policies over the years (some harsh, some that famously pay you to take time off and everything in between). And I’ve come to a conclusion on the best PTO and vacation policy: none.
Of course I’m not suggesting that you not let employee take time off, nor am I suggesting that you not have a formal policy. But after seeing all the variations – and importantly have had to unwind companies with various PTO policies – I think the best practice is to have a formal policy of not having a formal policy. In such a plan employees don’t have a set number of days that they can take off; there’s no difference between a day you take off to go to the doctor or sit on the beach; there’s no need to track days off; there’s just an agreement between the company and employees that they’ll take time off appropriately (and after checking with their manager). Here are a few reasons why I like the “no policy” policy:
– There’s no need to track days. In my experience most companies do a horrible job of tracking employees vacation usage. Having a policy of not having a policy eliminates the need for this. There’s also no difference between a sick day a personal day and a vacation day. They’re all just days out of the office.
– There’s no vacation accrual. As a result of not tracking vacation days, there’s no vacation accrual (which is inevitably wrong – see bullet 1 above). Vacation accruals in my experience turn into a perverse – and often unearned – “bonus” when employees leave a company. And they’re a huge pain to deal with if things turn south. But most importantly I think they set up the wrong incentive/expectation. Companies shouldn’t put employees in the position of choosing between the monetary value of time off and actually taking time off. Companies have vacation policies because employees who take vacations are better employees (this is at the heart of FullContact’s paid paid vacation policy that I referred to above). The value of vacation is the actual vacation, not in some artificial bank account that grows as you grow more miserable in your job.
– It’s better for employees. It’s good for people to get out of the office once in a while, for sure. But the other benefit of having a no policy policy is that you’re saying to your
How do you (and the early-stage VC community in general) like to conduct due diligence on the companies you are interested in funding?
Read the rest here. And if you’d like to send in a question, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The purpose of diligence is to answer Who, What, When, Where, and Why questions about a prospective deal. At a seed-stage fund, this typically involves four things: market research, competitive research, customer feedback, and founder reference checks. Taken together, these present an investor with as comprehensive a view of a deal as possible. A fifth element, much more common in later stage investing, is an examination of financials.MARKET RESEARCH
Market research involves looking into trends in a given sector. This type of research is often done well in advance of a specific opportunity coming in, for the purpose of understanding a hot market or with an eye toward crafting an investment strategy. This is because it’s time-consuming, and may be rushed if done reactively around a particular deal. However, sometimes it does happen in conjunction with diligencing a particular deal. Some common questions that investors try to answer include:
- What are the drivers in that segment of the economy?
- Is the addressable market of customers growing or shrinking?
- Is there an underlying regulatory framework that dictates rates, prices, or behavior?
- Are there changes happening that make this market particularly prone to disruption in the near future?
Competitive landscape research involves examining a sector to determine who the component players are. The first step is to identify the large incumbents – the 800-lb gorillas who serve the majority of customer needs in the space. Then, there is a survey of smaller players and other startups. Who has entered the space recently? Are those startups funded or showing evidence of traction? Is this a “land grab” situation, where dozens of startups are trying to differentiate with highly-specific niche features, or are there few entrants (few entrants isn’t necessarily more ideal; that may mean there’s no real demand)? The competitive companies are then compared to the startup under consideration, typically on pricing, the offering, and/or the technology.
I mean this is just ridiculous. I spent 10 minutes trying to find the right Advil for me - I’m sure it really makes no difference anyway.
Could probably cut the number of SKUs by 10x, make the experience 10x better, and each store would be 1/4th the size.
Today is one of those wonderful bittersweet moments in venture. When a team you’ve worked with for many years and is firing on all cylinders gets acquired in a fantastic exit. This is the case with the announcement of EMC buying Aveksa this morning.
Aveksa builds enterprise identity and access governance software. What does that mean? Well, in lay terms, their software ensure that the right people have access to the right data and applications at the right time. It’s a core security function and one that is quite technically complex to solve. And in today’s world where anyone can spin up an application with an email address and password, it’s one that’s coming under increased scrutiny.
We’ve known Deepak Taneja, the founder and CTO of Aveksa for many years. My prior firm had backed Deepak’s last company, Netegrity, where he was CTO and VP Engineering. Netegrity pioneered the web-based SSO market and built into a $100MM+ business before being acquired by CA. We were of course delighted to partner again with Deepak when he founded Aveksa. As part of that, Barry Bycoff – the former CEO of Netegrity – also joined Aveksa’s board as Chairman and we partnered with CRV to co-lead Aveksa’s Series A.
Along the way, we were joined by FT Ventures (Liron Gitig in particular) and were quite fortunate to find Vick Vaishnavi, who joined as CEO of Aveksa in late 2010. He’s an incredibly accomplished individual, having been VP of Marketing with Bladelogic from its early days through going public and eventually at BMC when it was acquired for $800 million. He brought together a veteran team and drove the business to 100% year over year growth.
This is a great outcome for us as shareholders and for the employees of Aveksa. I’d like to thank the entire team, most of whom are with us today from founding and some who are not, and the Board & co-investors I’ve worked with over the years. It’s been a thrilling ride that I’ve been privileged to be a part of and building Aveksa proved that creating complex software for the enterprise can still be sexy. I hope to work with you all again in the future!
Tagged: emc, enterprise, security
Navin Chaddha is the managing director of Mayfield Fund.
The venture capital industry is getting rightsized, with less capital raised and deployed, smaller funds, fewer active venture capital firms, and more regulation. The exit climate has picked up, but is still not at the level required. And valuations are overall more rational, with some exceptions at the later stages or in consumer-facing momentum companies.
However, with the confluence of not one but four big market drivers (discussed below), and the rise of a new technology cycle, we think this is still a great time to be a venture capitalist or entrepreneur.
There is an opportunity for a new VC Firm to brand itself. Recent brands in Venture Capital arose from transparency and founder-friendliness. YCombinator gives new, young, technical talent an entry into Silicon Valley. 500 Startups does it globally. Fred Wilson blogs the business. Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz back Founders to be Public Company CEOs. Ron Conway tirelessly connects his investments to his huge personal network. AngelList gives away investor and talent introductions for free. Founders Fund explicitly cashes out Founders. First Round Capital builds and operates an internal platform. Brad Feld, Mark Suster, Floodgate, Felicis, Freestyle, Softech, Harrison Metal, Baseline all have transparent, founder-friendly philosophies.
That’s not how most VCs work. Imagine if a young entrepreneur were to walk into a VC firm and say:
"We help our customers but don’t tell them exactly how. Our core product is a commodity, yet we don’t disclose pricing. Even when we do, there are substantial hidden costs. It has to be bought in bulk, more than they want. We can take months to onboard a customer. We reject most of them but don’t actually give them a straight answer. They don’t get dedicated support. They don’t get to choose or replace their representative. We don’t commit to serve them in the future. We have hundreds of competitors with the same strategy. Now where’s my check?"
Not even the DMV could get away with this. It’s only possible when the supplier has power over the buyer. As companies get cheaper to build, that power is eroding. Most great VC firms know this, and have built reputations to counter much of the above. That’s what "smart money" means.
But there’s the opening. No one quantifies it or promises it. A few are beginning to – Passion Capital has a Termsheet in Plain English. The accelerators of course do this.
But where’s the venture capital with a strict, quantified promise? A Service Level Agreement?
Imagine this pitch:
"Hello, we’re Founder Friendly Capital. We
• Give you a quick and clear answer. 3 meetings, 2 weeks, yes or no.
• Sign up to a plain-English, Founder-Friendly Termsheet. We pay our own legal costs.
• 1x Liquidation Preference, no veto on Arms Length transactions. Four weeks to decide. No one-way NDAs.
• We’ll always do our pro-rata in the future or sell you back our stake.
• Will never bring in an outside CEO without at least 50% Founder consent.
• You’ll get access to the following resources. X hours of our recruiter time. Access to Y network. Office hours with your Partner.
• Board Seat above $X, Board Observer below that, no Board Control
• No Option Pool Shuffle – the Pre-Money is the
However, a survey of the big winners suggests the pace at which large social networks emerge has not slowed down. Although it is hard to reproduce a success the size of Facebook, many billion dollar social companies have been started more recently. Below is a chart of major products versus the year they launched [1,2].
Once you remove products that never reached traffic on the scale of the top ~50 or so sites based on Alexa you end up with:
Just as the calls came that "social is dead", a wave of major services launched. WhatsApp, Foursquare, Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat launched 2009 or later. A number of vertical social networks also launched including NextDoor (2011), ClassDojo (2012), and EdModo (2008).
2009-2011 Mobile Social Emerged
While it is unclear if all the newer companies listed above will be successful, it is striking that so many new social networks have hit scale since 2009. Obviously, the internet is a much bigger place than it was 10 years ago so scale can come faster.
The rise of mobile as a new platform has yielded a whole new set of social products (5 of the 6 companies listed since 2009 are mobile-first products). The ubiquity of smart phones has also opened up more time of the day for people to spend time online in short bursts - the perfect behavior for a social product or game. Finally, many young users don't want to use the same social networks their parents inevitably join once it gets large enough.
It is interesting to speculate if Google Glass or other new platforms will yield new social products tailored to new hardware experiences.
2008-2012 Specialized Social Experiences
Just as LinkedIn (launch 2002) pioneered business social products a new slew of vertical networks have emerged including NextDoor (launch 2011), ClassDojo (2012), and EdModo (launch 2008). In general, the vertical networks take longer to grow, but in many cases monetize more directly for a subset of users then broad based consumer sites (see e.g. LinkedIn).
Death Of Social Products
Over time, a number of social products that have hit scale have died (e.g. Friendster, Digg, and Myspace). Typically social products can only die due to self-inflicted wounds once they have traction. I would not be surprised if 1-2 of the companies I listed since 2009 will also eventually be subsumed.
Why Have Early Stage Investors and Entrepreneurs Fled Social?
Scar Tissue. Many investors wrote a large Continue reading "Social Products"
Today is a big day for our portfolio company Tremor Video as they achieve an important milestone – they had their Initial Public Offering and their stock is now listed on New York Stock Exchange under the symbol $TRMR.
This is big achievement for the Tremor Video team, including Waikit Lau and Steven Lee who were the original ScanScout founders, later joined by CEO Bill Day, then eventually merging with Tremor Media which was founded by Jason Glickman. The combined company has survived and thrived over the years, grew sales to over $100 million last year, and they’ve really earned their leadership role in the online video market.
ScanScout was the first company I joined the board of and started working with when I joined First Round in 2006. I learned a lot and had the chance to work closely with Waikit and Steve and the early team, and incredible seed investors and partners including Ron Conway of SVAngel who introduced us to the company, David Lee who at the time was working at Google Video before YouTube, and Chris Dixon who was an early and active seed investor
Here are are some lessons learned and observations on the road from ScanScout to $TRMR:
1) Enterprise sales businesses can take a lot more time and money to develop, but when they do they can create real value.
2) Markets like Online Video Monetization can take a while to develop. Now it’s a fast-growing multi-billion dollar market, but back in 2006 ScanScout was definitely early.
3) At ScanScout and for many Online Advertising businesses, it’s nice to have both Direct/Brand sales and Partner/Backfill revenue. There were many times in the early quarters where both were needed in combination and balanced and supported each other.
4) The power of Private to Private mergers. Tremor Media and ScanScout really made sense – it was 1+1=3. And they also acquired Transpera, another First Round company. It showed great vision. Startups don’t consider it often enough. This really a topic for another whole blog post.
5) This is another exit for the NYC tech community, and now Tremor Video has joined some great company exits like Makerbot, Tumblr, Buddy Media- and there a lot more in the wings.
I’ve recently migrated my entire photo collection to Dropbox, and thought I’d share my thoughts on the experience.
First, photos are such precious parts of our lives, if you don’t have a backup plan for yours, you should count on losing them.
Second, I’ve lived in an Apple world since 1998, and have used every version of iPhoto produced, and finally moved over to Aperture because my library had grown to big, and I’d bought a DSLR, so wanted something more “professional” and responsive. Moving to Aperture was a mistake, and moving backwards to iPhoto was painful. I was ready to leave Apple’s solutions behind.
Third, setting Apple issues aside, I set out to find out if it was possible to have one single unified photo album that’s accessible from all my devices (for editing, maintenance and sharing)? The answer to this one came in the form of Dropbox, thanks to a few changes earlier this year.
Dropbox now pulls all images from inside your dropbox into a single view, aptly named, “Photos”. Photo management abilities are currently minimal – you can make and share Albums- but that’s plenty when your photos have been locked on a hard drive for years. The key for me is having ALL my photos in a file structure that I can easily navigate and manage. Dropbox provides that – and they’re backed up/duplicated on multiple machines. My photo management and photo sharing are now one and the same – this is a huge simplification. And it’s online, so handy tools like IFTTT can play nicely.
One unexpected key thing did happen during this process – my photo collection was cut in half size wise. Aperture uses Preview Photos, which duplicates your entire collection… After getting rid of those and some other trimming, I ended up with a much smaller total libarary size (which means it can grow significantly before hitting my storage threshold on Dropbox).
There are two tutorials that I used for the process (and it IS a process- one that’s taken a long time to complete): MacStories and SimplicityBliss . If this looks like too much pain; fear not. The latest experimental builds of dropbox have direct iPhoto import functionality, so it will be a simple process, and ready for prime time soon- no betas and no tinkering around to get all your photos into Dropbox. Last year, Dropbox acquired Snapjoy, with a view towards offering more photo management tools- which are now starting to see the light of day.
Things To Do Before Trying To Raise Series A
A big decision point if you decide to fundraise without traction is whether to skip a Series A fundraise and go directly for a bridge round, or whether to try to raise a Series A first (or in parallel).
Some questions to ask regarding your traction:
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're goin' through
I've read many many music books (the best: Positively 4th Street, Chronicles Volume One, Please Kill Me, Our Band Could Be Your Life, The Trouser Press Record Guide, Beneath the Underdog, Miles, Rock of Ages, Lipstick Traces, Just Kids) and magazines (such as Spin, Uncut, Mojo, The Big Takeover, Forced Exposure, Backstreets).
The reality is, I'm not a great writer, at least not in the sense of what a professional writer is (or I believe should be). That's alright, I was never trained as such and never really learned to write well. Not sure I even aspire to that. I leave that to my partner and friends.
However, self-expressive services, like Tumblr, aren't concerned with notions, objective or otherwise, of quality. They don't make a value judgement about whether I am a good writer or not. They are a canvas. To create, with freedom. They implicitly say, do it yourself. They are about, first and foremost, self-empowerment.
I believe that rarely in history have we had places that allow us to express ourselves, who we are, at mass, to the world, with little rules other than as we might create to govern ourselves. Requiring no permission. Until recently, and via the Internet.
On May 25, 2007, I posted a photo on my Tumblr site. A few months later, on February 16, 2008, I first posted a song (New York Groove, Ace Frehley). Pretty much every day since then I have posted some song, some thought, some music related randomalia. 4,837 times. I even once wrote an Continue reading "So You Wanna Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star"
The venture industry is awash with talk of the “Series A Crunch”, where it’s getting progressively more challenging for seed companies to land follow-on financing. In my short two-year tenure as a full-time investor, I’ve seen this crunch hit very hard at a number of quality early-stage consumer companies.
Why is this happening? A number of factors are coming together to create this crunch:
A significant supply/demand imbalance has emerged between seed and Series A financings coming out of the economic near-meltdown of 2008-2009. In 2009, there were about the same number of seed and Series A financings, but the number of seed deals have exploded since then while the number of A-rounds grew only modestly. In 2012, there were 2.5x as many seed financings as A-round financings, whereas historically these were more in balance. This suggests something like 60% of seeds could be stranded.
Investor expectations have expanded substantially. It’s become steadily less expensive to launch many consumer-oriented Net businesses over the years due to things like Moore’s law, improving programming tools, the cloud and the ability to access users from multiple large platforms. Now we often see the kind of traction that we used to expect from Series B companies in Series A companies, and from Series A companies in seed companies. For example, a number of our recent Series A investments built multi-million dollar revenue run rates on their seed round. We’re getting spoiled. Combine this with the above supply/demand imbalance and you’ve got a situation where the bar is being raised exactly when the competition for the A-round is becoming particularly fierce.
The source of seed capital has been changing. In recent years, the amount of seed investment from non-traditional institutional sources has increased dramatically. More and more seed capital is coming from sources like angels, “super angels”, micro-VCs and incubators. To under-score this point, we have close to a thousand separate angels as co-investors in the consumer companies in our less-than-four-year old portfolio. This influx of new capital has arguably had an inflationary impact on seed valuations, which obviously has an initial attraction to many entrepreneurs but can create challenges in a “crunch” scenario. These non-institutional sources of capital are not inclined or structured to potentially help a company secure additional capital in a crunch. And the higher valuations provide a higher hurdle that must be overcome by potential new investors in a crunched company.
The number of potential Series A investors appears to be contracting. The venture business is showing early signs of a significant consolidation. The amount of capital invested has trailed the amount raised
As part of an ongoing effort to be more transparent and open about venture and investing, I thought I’d set out a few reasons for why I led the effort behind Qualcomm Ventures’ recent investment into Wrapp (great interview with Carl where he discuses product and roadmap).
1) People. The team has a vision, is passionate and can execute. I’ve known co-founder Andreas Ehn for many years, I’ve worked with Creandum at Videoplaza for the past 18 months, I knew Hjalmar Winbladh, Niklas Zenstromm and Reid Hoffman by reputation. All star line-up of team and investors.
2) Product. Simple, clean app with a razor sharp mobile focus. Easy to use and easy to like (really, who doesn’t like to get a gift?). While considering whether or not to invest, I talked to quite a few users who didn’t like the product- they LOVED the product. (I also talked to quite a few users that hated it. Everyone has an opinion.) I listened to the 1 million+ people that have downloaded the app, and the 15 Million gifts that have been sent.
3) Potential. Wrapp crosses the digital/physical divide- they can move people into stores, gyms, restaurants, etc and convert those feet into purchases. That is potentially huge. It’s still early days, but that conversion cycle is very compelling for brands and retailers. The market for gift cards is $110 Billion in the US alone- disrupting that market is a major opportunity. Marketing is a hard space to be in… and it’s not getting easier. Brands and companies need to engage with customers, and Wrapp offers them a great way to do that on a deeper basis.
4) Terminal Velocity. Subcategories were:
a) Lots of funding. $15M Series B. Check.
b) Office in the US. Wrapp is roughly split between Stockholm and San Francisco. Check.
c) Connections. Spotify, Microsoft, Skype, Linkedin,Creandum, Atomico, Greylock, American Express. Check.
d) Chutzpah. Being Swedish, not so much… they’re too understated, but there’s certainly a lot of charisma and charm.
Clearly, the company’s metrics and performance were very compelling as well – growth, retention, engagement, etc.
I could go through this exact same list for our investment in Waze back in 2010 and have very similar answers for each point above. Critically, Waze had hit the 1 million user mark; that’s a fundamental milestone that’s very indicative of a company’s success. Granted, you need many, many green lights to all work in your favor to get to a successful result, but the raw materials for success were there.
|First Generation Mobile Computer|