14 for 14. Homebrew’s first fund (2013-2015) has 20 core investments of which 14 went market for a Series A. All 14 successfully completed this fundraise. The six who didn’t go out for a Series A either (a) shutdown/acquihired prior to this milestone [founder disagreement; lack of product traction], (b) exited due to an early M&A opportunity or (c) in one case, is currently an ongoing concern that hasn’t needed to raise additional capital.
I was thinking about this stat last month while preparing a slide deck for our annual LP meeting. As an industry we often say a startup “failed to raise” when a funding round doesn’t come together and while it’s factually correct, in some ways it strikes me as a downstream implication of a core issue: they didn’t fail to raise, they failed to execute. The company most likely did not accomplish the milestones required to move Continue reading “Failure to Execute vs Failure to Raise”
I’ve lived in San Francisco long enough to consider myself a Local, if not a Native. But no number of elapsed years or distance can dull my strong attachment to New York City, my birth city. A combination of family and work obligations pull me back at least a half-dozen times annually. That frequency, plus some serendipity, has allowed me to inhabit my hometown during some interesting 21st century moments despite lacking residency. I was walking Manhattan’s streets a few days post-9/11 and the homemade “missing” flyers taped to any surface to which an adhesive would stick, still stands out vividly in my brain. Election nights where the streets were filled with celebration or with quiet resignation. Spontaneous celebrations following sports championships. The memories span all emotions.
In autumn I’m an especially frequent visitor – it’s my birth season, my favorite climate-wise, and the chance to
I froze my credit file across all three bureaus. I’ve been comped various identity theft and monitoring services which seem to pepper me with really uninteresting updates about their “dark web scans” and erratic increases or decreases to my card limits. And I have Google Alerts set up for my social security number and other personal information that may one day make their way to the public web. These minor frictions aren’t all attributable to the 2017 Equifax breach but that’s the incident which sticks in my mind to this day. Because what do you do about a company like Equifax?
Moody’s just downgraded their outlook, which has real implications for their financial wellbeing (borrowing interest rates, etc). Is the market the ultimate regulator? Businesses and consumers decide that a hacked institution is no longer someone they trust, and Equifax experiences more difficulty hiring, partnering, and so on? Or
My obsessive focus on parsing the language of introductions previously resulted in a discussion of “the vouch,” but tbh that’s 101 level stuff. Let’s go deeper….
Introductions 201: The Favor
Another type of email frequently in my inbox is a light request or inquiry from an acquaintance to do something which is basically of unidirectional value for a friend of theirs. Usually around career advice, startup feedback or similar. If it can be fulfilled very quickly my general disposition is to try and help, especially if the FOAF is an URM. But often the ask actually has some effort associated with it – let’s say 15-30m worth (a chat, reviewing a deck and sending comments, trying to find the right person for them within an org I know, etc). I love helping, but that’s time which gets removed from Homebrew or my family, both of which are higher
“Ugh, he’s such an asshole,” a friend sighed to me about a mutual acquaintance. I shrugged, and proceeded to explain my complicated relationship with some folks who I know are assholes, or selfish, or blowhards, or any other combination of qualities that can be disqualifying. “Yeah, but he’s consistently an asshole,” I replied, “so you know what you’re getting and he knows he’s an asshole.”
I’ve historically had a bit of tolerance for people who might not display all the character traits that I’d look for in a friend or colleague, but who are self-aware of how they act and predictable in their behavior (can you be a “dependable asshole?). While I might not invite these folks deeply into my life, I probably excommunicate them less frequently than I should. I’ve got an unspoken working agreement with the mild assholes in my life for when our paths do
Blog posts, for me, are like kidney stones. Or at least how I imagine kidney stones to be, since I’ve never had them personally. They usually begin with a question or idea, and then tumble around in my head, until crystallizing in a way which compels me to write, for to *not* do so would almost be painful. Hours, days, months can elapse before this moment occurs. Or sometimes it never does — either the topic loses my interest, or even better, someone else covers the same ground and I can just point to theirs. (I say “even better” in these cases but there’s probably a 10% “damn, I wanted to write that myself,” if I was truly being honest).
“Apple and AI and Cameras” was in my list since last autumn. And I’d been saving pictures to accompany the post – of realtor signs, pieces of art, store windows.
Too Early To Tell – Some Good Stuff, Some Challenges But A Lot To Do
The real gold in this post is in the Too Early To Tell category. Hunter has a great lead in:
“Here’s where I think founders and cap tables should be more proactive. The default is to let the firm assign another person at the fund (hopefully a GP) and then just keep working on the plan of record as if nothing changed. My experience suggests this will be neutral to negative long term, unless you end up in the “killing it” camp by next
I like my coffee. And recently set out to improve my portable consumption experience by finding a better travel mug. My two primary motivations are (a) moving away from disposable cups and (b) preserving/improving the drinking experience versus paper. Secondary considerations -> aesthetics, ease to clean and price.
Non-goals: insulation (I don’t need my coffee to stay hot for hours) and durability (in the sense that I’m not looking for something that will survive a 10 ft drop, or needs to go into a backpack while biking). I also have a bias towards glass or ceramic, believing plastic or metal muddles the taste.
Here’s the three I’m currently enjoying. If you’ve ones you love, tweet them to me please!
Expanding a brief quip into a blog post might go against every law of internet nature, which suggests most content is improved by brevity. But something I suggested over the weekend raised enough follow-up that I committed to sharing more. And since my tweets are on a rolling 30-day delete, the below will last longer than the 280 character version.
A handful of replies asked questions or provided feedback. Here are my responses, starting with the skepticism, and ending up with the personal stuff.
@hunterwalk, Stop Pushing HustlePr0n About Stress: My tweet wasn’t anything about how hard you should work, or the cost of effort.
@hunterwalk, You Are Wrong In Some Way: I don’t know what to tell you. It works for me. Your mileage may vary.
@hunterwalk, What Can I Read To Better Understand Stress & Its Effects? I recommend these two books.
Everything is setting up perfectly – you’ve got a great relationship with your lead VC – he’s even saying “we” and painting pictures of being on the podium with you for the NASDAQ opening eight years from now. Then he tells you he likes being an investor but *really* misses being an operator, and is joining another one of his other portfolio companies as COO. You grit out a smile and weak ‘congrats’ while thinking ‘“fuuuuuuck.”
Across town a different CEO is having a breakfast with her Series A Board partner. It’s off-schedule – the two usually meet every other week – but she’s an awesome VC, much better than the older dudes at her mediocre shop, so any time you have is appreciated. You almost spit out your coffee when she lets you know that she’s leaving for a Tier 1 firm but that her partners John, John
“Don’t worry about making money right now” is not the advice you’d expect a seed VC to give a CEO right after writing them a big check. Do I not desire the UpAndToTheRightCurve needed to raise a Series A and get me that sweet sweet write-up? Doesn’t Homebrew want steak more than sizzle in the companies we back? Hunter, what’s gotten into you???
I’m longterm greedy, which means ultimately my venture success is going to depend on quality of company exiting, not pump and dumps, or millions in fees. Phosphorous burns white hot but not very long. Unsustainable revenue curves willed into existence in order to prove growth ahead of raising more capital is the organizational version of phosphorous. I want furnaces – a sustainable heat source which goes as long as you feed it. Well, technically I want furnaces that eventually stop burning wood and start spitting out wood,
Hold aside that the Forbes lists are notoriously, well, estimates – I mean, this is the one that Trump was obsessed about ranking on, and would make up all sorts of numbers to successfully to do so. And hold aside that no matter what you think of Kylie’s success and what it says about America, she’s role modeling some notion of business-savvy and Get It feminism, albeit wrapped into a confusing package. What Forbes responded to quickly was backlash regarding the concept of self-made. And they did it in a surprisingly specific way – a scoring system!
The American mythology of meritocracy and mobility are being eyed with increasing amounts of skepticism by younger generations, and likely always by those less
Which then resulted in a longer blog post from Jason Rowley on what indie software he pays for. Which then spurred *this* post. For purposes of definition, I’m using “indie” as (a) not owned by a big tech company and (b) haven’t raised tons of venture capital (to the best of my knowledge). Like Jason’s disclaimer, I too am likely forgetting some stuff. So, in alpha order:
Bear – My favorites Notes app on MacOS/iOS. It’s not bloated with features and just feels, I dunno, fun to write in? I use Bear especially when I’m taking notes while also being on a video/phone call.
Feedly – My RSS backend feedreader (Per below, I use Reeder as a consumption frontend)
CopyClip2 – I actually haven’t upgraded from CopyClip Original yet, but this is the MacOS app I use for clipboard management. Copy, paste, copy, paste.
As a kid I’d prowl graveyards with my mother, tightly holding sheets of wax paper and thick, flat Crayolas. Macabre backdrop for sure, but our interest was in art not mischief. Upon discovering a tombstone with especially interesting inscriptions or carved pictures we’d overlay the wax paper and rub the crayon up and down the sheet. The resulting artifact was a color representation of the words and images beneath. You can look at this rubbing of a leaf and imagine the equivalent.
Besides an awesome relationship with my mom (these weren’t even close to the weirdest stuff we did together), those days left me with an appreciation for how people told their final personal story. Around New York City suburbs and occasional trips to New England I read centuries worth of lives lived – maybe this was the spark which eventually turned me into a history major at college. Died
Now it all makes sense! Bezos’ post about his penis and HQ2 dramatic break up with New York City was all just a con man’s swerve, a magician’s distraction, to cause us to look one way while the real story happened under our noses (and keyboards): Amazon built their Westworld!
As we now know, the plot conceit of Westworld is that there’s a corporation mapping our every desire to build the ultimate marketing database! Yes, that’s right Dolores, Delos is just another adtech play
I met Jeff Berman during my YouTube years. He was an exec at MySpace and we were probably talking about a host of different partnership-type ideas that I don’t believe went very far. Fortunate for me, the collaboration of our friendship has been more enduring. Jeff is huge brain, huge heart, huge presence. Involved across a variety of commercial and non-profit efforts, he’s quick to volunteer his help and always lives up to his words. It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to him as well via Five Questions.
In the design of social apps, we’ll sometimes talk about how there’s a Friend Graph and an Interest Graph, and they don’t always mix. Well for my personal Venn diagram of those two, Adam Davidson sits squarely in the the overlap. We first got connected via a mutual friend around the cause of independently funded journalism, but found the topics of mutual joy (and distress) to be even broader. This is a longer Five Questions but I think an absolutely spectacular one and I hope you enjoy it.
Hunter Walk: You were one of the first reporters to focus on Trump’s money trail instead of his tweets, in both longform New Yorker articles and your Swamp Chronicles series. Are you still convinced that his downfall will be tied to these issues versus other accusations?
My friend Rebecca is pretty awesome. She’s a writer and recently published her first YA novel – The Similars. I was curious about her writing process, role of social media in book promotion and consumer fandom, so thrilled Rebecca let me ask her Five Questions.
Hunter Walk: Earlier this year your first book, The Similars, was published. What’s more difficult – writing a book or promoting a book? My understanding is that, like many content industries, book publishing has become more open/inclusive, but also more difficult to breakthrough to find an audience?
Rebecca Hanover: That’s an easy one. There’s no contest; writing the book was the hardest part, because a first novel is a mysterious, stubborn beast of a project, and there’s nothing else you’ll ever do that’ll be quite like it. This book was like my third child—it had to be conceived, birthed, reared, loved, nurtured and disciplined. But
“There are now more seed funds whose names begin with the letter ‘F’ than there were seed funds [in total] when we started our firm!” A great line uttered at dinner last night by one of the senior GPs at one of the best early stage funds. Also, a partner who is transitioning into a non-FT role going forward.
One question that’s been on my mind since we started Homebrew in early 2013 was whether seed venture would end up being multigenerational or not. It’s a question that, even six years later, is still unanswered. The first real institutional funds in this segment of the market are starting to reach the back half of their original partnerships – where some combination of age, wealth effect, changes in personal goals, etc have started the transition. New GPs are hired or grown, and in several