Building Brands for Mind, Body, and Spirit

The best brands imbue consumers with positive feelings and emotions that drive loyalty and are fundamentally trustworthy. This is true across fashion and apparel, travel and hospitality, technology, and myriad other categories, yet when it comes to health and wellness, very few brands, outside of some in fitness (think SoulCycle or Equinox), have emerged that cater to a consumer’s mind, body, and spirit. While some like LOLA, Hims, or Headspace have started to make a name for themselves, there is still a distinct void and as an investor, it is up to me to determine whether this void is an opportunity for entrepreneurs or if it’s the status quo for a reason. Perhaps there aren’t meant to be brands in every category within consumer health and wellness, but my working hypothesis is there should be dramatically more than there are today.

The headline macro trend is that there’s a growing Continue reading "Building Brands for Mind, Body, and Spirit"

Alex Iskold Startup Hacks

I’ve been friends with Alex Iskold for over a dozen years (I was an angel investor in GetGlue, which USV funded.)

Alex has been the Managing Director of Techstars NY for a number of years and I think he’s now run seven programs and built an impressive portfolio of around 80 companies.

I’m a huge Alex fan and love his writing. Recently, he put together a bunch of great blog posts on his site under a heading Startup Hacks. He has divided them into the following topics: Fundraising, Managing Investors, VC and Business Intros, Metrics and KPIs, Product and Marketing, Productivity, Founding Team, and Accelerator.

I’ve read them all. Some of my favorites include:

Startups, Ideas and Timing

“The two worst things to be as a startup is too early or too late. Too late you can’t recover from, but you can survive too early if you have a great CEO and loyal investors.”

This quote in Dan Primack’s newsletter (via Axios) from Paul Maeder, investor and board member at the recently public Carbon Black, which started its journey 16 years ago reminded me of my conversation with Silicon Valley legend and serial entrepreneur, Andy Bechtolsheim.

Why Bird Interests Me. And No Not That Way

I have been hearing about Bird for a few months and have often wondered what was all the buzz about. I wanted to see the product up close, to try and figure out the reasons for all the excitement. And that happened this past weekend when three Birds showed up mysteriously outside our residential building. And finally, it all made sense — though, not in the way you would expect. Continue reading "Why Bird Interests Me. And No Not That Way"

The Ups and Downs

If you have a personality that gets ruffled easily or don’t have an even temper, don’t invest in startups.  It’s funny, as the startup community builds in Chicago more people are being drawn to it.  Some people want to invest in it.  They might join an angel group to learn the ropes, but that isn’t always the best way to learn.  Some angel groups are good for mentoring, others are not.  Some are just organized check writing societies.

Some just start writing checks.  That will teach you the hard way!  But, you do have to be willing to write checks and take the risk if you are going to invest.

I think the first thing you need to do is take an inventory of your psychological self.  Do you have the psychological make up to be a startup investor?  It’s a totally fair and responsible question to ask yourself.  Contemplating

Continue reading "The Ups and Downs"

Paris-based VC firm Ventech is raising a new fund

 Ventech has been around for 20 years, which is the equivalent of 80 years in tech time. And the VC firm is still going strong as it just announced the initial closing of a new fund. The firm has raised $170 million (€140 million) and wants to reach the $250 million hard cap (€200 million) within a few months. And Ventech isn’t going to reinvent the wheel. The firm plans to do more of… Read More

DoorDash raises $535M, now valued at $1.4B

 Restaurant delivery service DoorDash is joining the unicorn club with its latest round of funding. The company is announcing that it’s raised $535 million in a Series D round. And while it’s not saying anything about valuation, a source close to DoorDash told us that the new funding values the company at $1.4 billion (post-money). DoorDash had previously raised around $186… Read More

Double Clicking Arteen’s Marketplace Calculator

Earlier this week, Arteen Arabshahi at Fika Ventures released his Marketplace Calculator, which is a framework his firm uses to assess two/three sided businesses, with network effects. In general, I think these frameworks can be dangerous in that they commoditize a nuanced process, but I actually thought Arteen’s was nicely done, simple, and appropriately weighted […]

Collective Health nabs $110 million in funding

 Enterprise health management startup Collective Health has added another $110 million to the coffers from existing high-profile investors such as Founders Fund and Alphabet’s investment arm GV, bringing the total now raised to a cool $230 million. Read More

Startup that sells your salary data to VCs gets bought by Solium

 Investors don’t want their portfolio companies to pay you too much, or too little. So they pay Advanced-HR for its compensation data pulled from 2,500 startups. With a generic name, the service has flown somewhat under the radar since launching 20 years ago. As startups grow more professional while staying private longer, they’re getting serious about how they structure equity… Read More

betaworks Studios is a membership club for builders

 betaworks, the 10-year-old startup studio out of NYC, is today introducing a brand new business in the form of betaworks Studios. Think of betaworks Studios as a membership club for builders, offering entrepreneurs, artists, enginneers/developers, and creatives the space to work on their projects and get to know one another. Builders is the word that betaworks uses to describe its core… Read More

Norwest Venture Partners raises $1.5 billion fund

 Norwest Venture Partners has closed a $1.5 billion fund, bringing the total under management to $7.5 billion. The firm will be using the money to invest primarily in the consumer, enterprise and healthcare categories. And they are looking for opportunities at all stages, from seed stage to growth. Norwest said it has had a record past two years, achieving liquidity events for 30 of its… Read More

This former Uber (and Lyft) exec just raised $15 million for his controversial e-scooter startup: Bird

Travis VanderZanden. If you’ve been following the fast-changing transportation industry, it’s a name that may sound familiar. Until September 2016, VanderZanden was VP of growth at Uber and before that, COO of its fierce rival Lyft, which had acquired his on-demand car wash company, Cherry, in 2013. It was a dramatic few years for VanderZanden, once he joined the ride-hailing race.… Read More

Homebrew closed $90 million fund

 Homebrew is announcing the close of its third fund. This time they’ve raised $90 million, an increase from $50 million in 2015 and $35 million for its debut fund in 2013. Led by Hunter Walk and Satya Patel, the seed stage venture firm has spent the past five years investing in U.S.-based startups at the onset. Several of its portfolio companies have gone on to raise significant… Read More

Startups are a global opportunity!

Despite a boom in startup activity, more and more companies being formed, it doesn’t mean that more good companies are being created. I keep seeing the same names hit up investors again and again. A few successful ones are garnering a lion share of the total funding dollars, especially as they get more traction. Even those companies that have little traction are generating a lot of investor interest, while others who fall in the in-between range are getting less attention.

I don’t know how to say this politely, but a lot of it has do with the sheer laziness of investors who view what are essentially opportunities as “deals” in their backyard, preferably over expensive coffee. The polarization of investor interest is exacerbated by long standing dogma in Silicon Valley: we will invest within drive able distance. Which is strange, because the same investors are the first ones to espouse Continue reading "Startups are a global opportunity!"

The Startup Playbook

Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. So, when Techstars mentors, investors, and friends Rajat Bhargava and Will Herman told me that they were writing a book to help guide founders on their startup journey, I was immediately excited. I’ve known Raj and Will for a number of years now and they are great entrepreneurs and also great mentors at Techstars. Their experience and wisdom can help many of our companies and extend the reach of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. I particularly like their approach which is a founder-to-founder discussion. Founders need more data points from other founders!

If you are a founder, part of a startup team, or thinking about starting a company, grab a copy of The Startup Playbook. I think you’ll be happy you did.


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