Just listen

The other day I had a really tough conversation with a founder. After an hour, he told me he really appreciated the help, felt ready to go face the challenges we had discussed and had new confidence that he could manage through his current difficulties. I was glad he found it valuable and told him so. Over the course of the hour I may have said 7 words.

In my judgement, he did not need more than that — he just needed me to listen.

I hate the child/parent parallel for the founder/VC relationship for a million reasons however, this listening practice comes from the best parenting advice I ever got — but really it is the best relationship advice I ever got.

When my daughter was a day old, my father saw me worried about leaving the hospital, wondering if I would be a good parent (or even a functional one) and after asking me what

Continue reading "Just listen"

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"

We’re looking for an Associate

I’m very excited to announce that we’re looking for a new Associate. In all modesty, I think that for a young, smart person who’s passionate about startups and technology, an Associate role at Point Nine is one of the fastest ways to learn, build your network, and advance your career. Case in point: Rodrigo, who started as an Associate four years ago, is now a Partner at Point Nine; Fabian is running his own fund; Nicolas became a “30 under 30” and is now VP at Insight; and Mathias is now GM Germany at Uniplaces.

As I wrote last time when we were adding an Associate to our team, I'm pretty sure that it took me more than 10 years to get the expertise and network which you'll get during three years in this job.

If you’re interested, here are all the details. If you know somebody Continue reading "We’re looking for an Associate"

Kairos’ $25M venture fund will invest in ideas that help the middle class

 Kairos, the organization for young entrepreneurs founded in 2008 as Kairos Society, has lifted the veil on its first venture fund that it teased earlier this year. The $25M fund will focus on companies that are working to solve real-world issues facing the middle class in America and abroad. Essentially the fund and its investment thesis is a response to the often heard complaint that while… Read More

New venture capitalists find strength in numbers

 Ian Rountree, the twenty something captain at the helm of Cantos Ventures, an SF-based micro-fund, is characteristic of a new breed of venture capitalists in tech — a group of  small funds looking to go toe-to-toe with some of the valley’s most entrenched seed funds like First Round Capital and SV Angel. Rountree is experimenting with a strategy so antithetical to the venture… Read More

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"

A sneak peek into Point Nine’s investment thesis

Over the last couple of weeks and months we spent some time putting our investment thesis on paper. The purpose of this exercise was to challenge and discuss our implicit assumptions and to get everyone on our team aligned on what kind of investments we seek.

One of the things that being very clear about our investment focus helps with is getting to “no” faster. If that sounds pessimistic, remember that we see thousands of potential investments every year but can only do 10-15 of them. Just like it’s crucial for sales teams to have clear qualification and disqualification criteria, it’s important for us to focus our time on “higher probability deals”. That means we’ll have to be able to quickly pass on a large number of deals that are likely not a good fit for us. Our “filter” is of course not perfect, so we’ll inevitably pass on lots Continue reading "A sneak peek into Point Nine’s investment thesis"

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"

We Lead or We Participate

Over the years, I’ve been in many multi-party negotiations. I don’t know the maximum number of participants in a single negotiation, but I’m sure it’s greater than ten active negotiating parties in a transaction. I don’t mean the number of entities participating in the transaction, but the actual number of active negotiating entities. The best way to figure this out is to count the number of different law firms involved in the transaction. We shifted our behavior some years ago. Often, we lead deals. When we lead, we negotiate the terms. We work collaboratively with any other co-investors, but we’ll take the lead. But, if we don’t lead, we follow. This can be tricky, as our instincts (or ego) can often get in the way since we are used to leading deals. Or, the lawyers can get confused about what our real goals and intentions are in the negotiation. We always have
Continue reading "We Lead or We Participate"

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"

Blurring lines in enterprise SaaS; the race to own customer data

I’ve written before about the competitive nature of SaaS and the amount of entrants in every category. Lately after every conversation, I feel like the world is being divided into two camps and there is a massive battle going on in terms of who is going to own them and how. To oversimplify, I’ll call it pre-customer and post-customer domination. And there are companies looking to blur both of those categories as well. It’s pretty hard to create a new system of record these days as Salesforce, Marketo, Gainsight and the like are building tighter lock-in around their products. That’s not to say it can’t be done as those companies have larger fish to fry, mainly huge enterprise customers and $1mm + deals. Opportunities abound in the SME (small, medium enterprise), and we’ve seeded a number of founders going after that space.

The Race for the Customer – Owning the Central Repository for Customer Data

After every pitch, I seem to hear one thing – we will be the central place where all customer data resides to make intelligent decisions. Forget about web analytics, marketing automation, email platforms, customer support, customer success, and sales intelligence. The world is moving towards an all-in-one place and holistic view of the customer. This is the blending of tons of different SaaS segments and every company is adding more data to their approach. With APIs everywhere, this is making it easier for companies to start integrating data from multiple sources. Doing that is not the hard part; getting in the mind of the end user of these apps and ensuring seamless workflows will be much harder. At the end of the day, the more you know about your customer, the easier you can understand their mindset, and increase their happiness, and thus your revenue. Data-driven platforms like segment looker, and mixpanel have an interesting view as a central repository for customer data which feeds into apps. Mixpanel, it seems, is going one step further trying to capture more value from their customers by creeping into customer success. App players in various segments like zendesk want to move beyond customer support and into proactive marketing campaigns. Gainsight is pitching how to operationalize the customer lifecyle with cross-functional collaboration and proactive marketing. I can go on and on. This race also plays into another theme, automation and intelligence. Once the data is clean and in one place, it is easier to analyze and make predictions. We made an investment in March of 2013 in Preact, a SaaS platform for customer success which sold to Spotify. The company never completed its mission but big on Gooley’s mind was proactive intelligence. I now believe we have the tools Continue reading "Blurring lines in enterprise SaaS; the race to own customer data"