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"

The Story Behind My Investment In Astranis

Back in Q1 of 2016, in my quest to find and fund companies that were providing new ways for individuals and entities to access the Internet, I had heard about a startup in the YC W16 batch called Astranis. I stalked them online, emailed them cold, and after a few attempts, got to meet John, the CEO. In the initial meeting, John seemed eager that I would invest, but truth be told, I grew more confused in the meeting. John was busy getting ready for Demo Day, but I asked him to meet me again despite the demands on his time. Lucky for me, he agreed, and in that second meeting, John stepped back and taught me about the history of the telecommunications satellite industry — and that’s when I was blown away.

John went deep into the satellite industry. I had no idea before that meeting just how huge Continue reading "The Story Behind My Investment In Astranis"

Quickly Unpacking Amazon’s Billion-Dollar Purchase Of Ring

Over the last few weeks, I’ve uttered the phrase “Amazon needs to buy Ring” or “Amazon will compete with Ring” a number of times. Well, today, they bought Ring, allegedly for a rumored amount of $1.2B or more. Wow! Below, I will quickly unpack why the acquisition is notable…

The Amazon Angle

The front door to the house or apartment meets the bar for “frequent consumer interaction” point, and Ring has clearly nailed their product offering. When I suggested Amazon would buy Ring, others quickly pointed out that Amazon had recently purchased Blink for a very Amazon-y price of around $100M, and the implication was that their hardware labs would most certainly compete with Ring. So, I was surprised to the see the news, which likely tells us a few things – one, that Ring had a fantastic team which Amazon wanted to pay for and a valuable portfolio Continue reading "Quickly Unpacking Amazon’s Billion-Dollar Purchase Of Ring"

The Story Behind My Investment In 1confirmation

Mid-way through 2017, a close friend of mine said “Hey, remember Nick? He’s raising a fund. You should ping him.” So, I pinged Nick. It had been nearly three years since we really chatted. It turned out that Nick, who had been a very early employee at Coinbase and someone who just fell in love with the technology before “crypto” was cool was going to spin out of the VC fund he was working at to start a token fund.

That gave Nick and I an excuse to reconnect, and I’m glad we did. A few years removed, I was finishing up Haystack III and preparing a transition to Fund IV. Nick was telling me about his new fund, 1confirmation, and how he would raise a small fund, maybe $10M if he was lucky, to buy tokens in new projects and work with founders he liked. As Continue reading "The Story Behind My Investment In 1confirmation"

Metastasized Assumptions

When folks ask “Hey, how’s it going?” I usually respond with “Can’t complain” or “Optimistically paranoid!” It is really how I feel. First off, how lucky are all of us — founders, investors, limited partners, journalists, early employees — to work in such a dynamic ecosystem. Second, paranoia feels like a necessary ingredient for not taking the former all for granted, yet we all (or, most of us) are hopelessly optimistic — we believe we will reach our next milestones. And, why not? The industry is made of so many folks who are in the business of betting on themselves over the next guy or gal. And, we all have plans. Many plans. And, in those plans, we make assumptions. Many assumptions. And, the more we repeat them, they begin to take a life of their own. And, in those repetitions, we start to Continue reading "Metastasized Assumptions"

Investing Notes From The Upfront Summit (2018)

It is probably my favorite “big” tech conference of the year. Every year, in late January, hundreds of VCs and LPs make the trek to Los Angeles for The Upfront Summit, hosted by the team at Upfront and their local sponsors. If Twitter is the best mechanism for measuring the pulse of the VC ecosystem online, then The Upfront Summit is the best mechanism for doing so in real life. Looking back on my notes from 2016 and 2017, it is clear the show for 2018 was notably different.

And with that framing, here are my quick notes from this year’s event. From my vantage point, both consuming the content on stage but also from the chattering outside in the hallways (and on the production lots at Warner Brothers), The Upfront Summit 2018 was marked by three “C’s”:

1/ Culture – Usually the first day of the event Continue reading "Investing Notes From The Upfront Summit (2018)"

The Story Behind My Investment In Wag

Back in early 2015, while I was a venture partner with Bullpen, the guys there remarked about one of their portfolio founders on a continuous pivot with his company and that while it seemed crazy, they admired the team’s craftiness in hunting for the next thing. Ultimately, that company ended, and the founders wanted to start a new company right after — Wag!. There wasn’t much time to reflect in between. There was no Medium post about the shutdown. The new idea wasn’t remotely related to the previous ideas. Bullpen was going to back the founders again, and I agreed to take the meeting after getting a few pings from my friend Jonathon at Ludlow.

I’m glad I did. In the meeting, Josh and I talked about how they started a dog walking service via mobile app. After investing in Instacart, DoorDash, and Managed By Q, I had studied

?
Continue reading "The Story Behind My Investment In Wag"

The Story Behind My Investment In New Knowledge

If you can remember back nearly two years ago, the tech startup chatter was consumed by a fascination with bots. This was during a time when Facebook Messenger experimented with bots for brands, and when the ecosystem went a little overboard in its hopes for automation. Little did we know back then there was a very ripe use case for bots — but it wasn’t in the way we hoped it would be. From the days of Friendster and MySpace all the way to the 2016 American election, the penetration of social networks and social media were lauded as a welcomed frontier in how society shared and digested information.

Fast-forward to 2018, and the debate around the publishing power social networks — mainly Facebook and Twitter — have over the flow of information is at a fever pitch. Both the stakes and corresponding tension are high. Just this week, Twitter Continue reading "The Story Behind My Investment In New Knowledge"

The 2018 Seed Stage Reset

This post is about the Bay Area startup and venture ecosystem. I believe the local ecosystem just completed an entire “reset” with respect to the earliest stages of company formation. (I need to state upfront that this isn’t about the seed landscape nationwide — I’ll address that in a different post this year.)

When I began investing nearly five years ago in 2013, there were clear delineations between investment rounds — a founding team would raise from friends and family (and eventually, through scouts and Syndicates), progress to seed funds (established ones institutionalizing while new ones sprouted up), and then reach the promised land of the institutional Series A round, typically led by an established VC firm with a history of joining boards, maintaining ownership, and needing to drive large outcomes over many years to make their fund vehicles profitable. There was little cross-stage investing and many folks became Continue reading "The 2018 Seed Stage Reset"

The 2018 Seed Stage Reset

This post is about the Bay Area startup and venture ecosystem. I believe the local ecosystem just completed an entire “reset” with respect to the earliest stages of company formation. (I need to state upfront that this isn’t about the seed landscape nationwide — I’ll address that in a different post this year.)

When I began investing nearly five years ago in 2013, there were clear delineations between investment rounds — a founding team would raise from friends and family (and eventually, through scouts and Syndicates), progress to seed funds (established ones institutionalizing while new ones sprouted up), and then reach the promised land of the institutional Series A round, typically led by an established VC firm with a history of joining boards, maintaining ownership, and needing to drive large outcomes over many years to make their fund vehicles profitable. There was little cross-stage investing and many folks became Continue reading "The 2018 Seed Stage Reset"

Quickly Unpacking The Uber “Softbank IPO” Exit

Whenever there’s a big startup exit, I try to quickly unpack it here on the blog. There’s been so much news about Uber for the past year and more that, frankly, I have tuned most of it out. It’s almost laughable now three years ago, I actually thought about writing a book on this company and sector. Ultimately, I started a weekly newsletter around it and still couldn’t keep up on all the news forming around this company.

With that backdrop as context, it almost slipped my mind that the tech startup world and the SF Bay Area, in particular, experienced a huge “exit” with the Uber-Softbank deal. I write “exit” in quotes, however, because it is not the type we are used to waiting for or dissecting or even the type we get to see up close. As Fred Wilson noted this morning, USV and other firms can Continue reading "Quickly Unpacking The Uber “Softbank IPO” Exit"

Quickly Unpacking The Uber “Softbank IPO” Exit

Whenever there’s a big startup exit, I try to quickly unpack it here on the blog. There’s been so much news about Uber for the past year and more that, frankly, I have tuned most of it out. It’s almost laughable now three years ago, I actually thought about writing a book on this company and sector. Ultimately, I started a weekly newsletter around it and still couldn’t keep up on all the news forming around this company.

With that backdrop as context, it almost slipped my mind that the tech startup world and the SF Bay Area, in particular, experienced a huge “exit” with the Uber-Softbank deal. I write “exit” in quotes, however, because it is not the type we are used to waiting for or dissecting or even the type we get to see up close. As Fred Wilson noted this morning, USV and other firms can Continue reading "Quickly Unpacking The Uber “Softbank IPO” Exit"

Looking Ahead, Predictions For 2018

Turning the page on 2017, here’s what I’m looking ahead to in 2018:

I want to keep this post brief as possible. Below is a set of predictions for 2018 in tech startups and VC. This is also a window into the principles and beliefs I hold and which, in turn, form my behavior and actions in the ecosystem. So, some of this is tipping my hand, but I would welcome being challenged on any and all of these claims ;-)

Before I begin, a brief review of my four 2017 predictions, located in full here. For the first three, I give myself a C, F, and F, mainly because they’re boring and too broad. However, for the last one, #4, man… I hit that out of the park: “Digital currencies will be offered as part of a sophisticated investor’s portfolio.”. A+ and if I only acted more on Continue reading "Looking Ahead, Predictions For 2018"