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Why I Stopped Taking My Mobile Phone to My Bedroom

Why I Stopped Taking My Mobile Phone to My Bedroom Bothsidesofthetable Aug 31, 2015

Technology. It has been a hobby of mine since 1981 when […]

Making Sense of the Stock Market Drops in Relation to Venture Financing

Making Sense of the Stock Market Drops in Relation to Venture Financing Bothsidesofthetable Aug 25, 2015

If you didn’t notice that the stock markets in th […]

Be Someone that People Want to Work With Thisisgoingtobebig Sep 1, 2015

I mentioned this in my newsletter yesterday and decided to make a post out of it.

People ask me all the time how you find talent, money, etc.

My startup Golden Rule is this:

Be someone that people want to work with.

That's how you get funded. That's how you get hired and how you can hire the best people. It's why you get press and even how to get customers.

It's key to getting into venture capital.

If you were driven to be the very best person anyone could ever hope to work with, you'd go on to do amazing things.

That means you'd have a skill to offer--one that you strive to improve on everyday. You're constantly learning. You listen. You're well connected. You're pleasant. You're curious. You're calm under pressure. You work both smart and hard. You're thoughtful. You enjoy helping others and want them to succeed. You are innovative. You aren't stuck in your thinking.

When I set out to raise my next fund (which is thankfully going quite well), I wrote the deck based on why I thought others would want to work with me--because it seemed like the only important question you had to ask when considering a VC.

Follow anything more specific and you run the risk of losing the context of why something worked for someone else.

Why the Public Stock Markets Will Affect Your Funding Round Even if You Can’t Perceive It

Why the Public Stock Markets Will Affect Your Funding Round Even if You Can’t Perceive It Bothsidesofthetable Aug 25, 2015

Last night I wrote a post about how the fall in the sto […]

Personal update- I’m joining Uber! Here’s why

Personal update- I’m joining Uber! Here’s why Andrewchen Aug 24, 2015

Hi readers, Big news: I’m headed to Uber to join the supply growth team. I’m incredibly excited to apply everything I know about growth and combine that with an explosive company on a historic trajectory. My new role will head up everything related to driver signups, referral programs, and top-of-funnel for the supply side. I’m lucky to join the incredible team at […]

The post Personal update- I’m joining Uber! Here’s why appeared first on andrewchen.

What to Make of Amazon’s Work Practices? Bothsidesofthetable Aug 18, 2015

There is much discussion about this weekend’s art […]

My One Wish For All Startup Employees Bothsidesofthetable Aug 18, 2015

This summer I had the extreme pleasure of watching one […]

What I’ve Learned About Venture Funding

What I’ve Learned About Venture Funding Bothsidesofthetable Aug 21, 2015

VC funding. Our perspectives on the topic wax and wane […]

The Idea Stage is Broken and a Tool to Fix It Thisisgoingtobebig Aug 17, 2015

Almost a majority of the time, when I pass on an investment opportunity, there's something wrong with the company that can be traced back to the moment the entrepreneur came up with the idea. I find myself thinking, "You should really be doing something else."

People are excited about the idea of starting a company, but don't spend nearly enough time vetting what to work on. Frankly, I'm sceptical that the "picking an idea" thing has any decent likelihood of working out, versus having an idea pick you.

What's your answer to "Did you pick this idea or did this idea pick you?"

If you're having trouble sussing out an idea at the very earliest of stages, or you feel like you have something to offer, but you're not sure what to work on, try this exercise on for size.

It will help you figure out why you're doing something, what you bring to the table to an unknown thing, and how to start thinking about pacing your progress.


BackgroundI want to… (choose one)

create something, improve something

I have an… (choose any that apply)

interest, observation, opportunity, idea, question, asset, skill, goal, company, product, problem

Why now? (rank these)

Personal time limitation
Money constraint/opportunity
Career window
Market timing


Status Currently, I am [working full time/working part time/exploring/practicing/researching/improving] [name of the field or job].

I have been doing this for [x] [days/months/years].

I currently spend [x] hours per week doing this.

This is a time-sensitive endeavor (y or n)
If y, there is a time period that this needs to be executed within

I am working on this [alone/with others].

I [do/do not] make money doing this.

I [do/do not] make enough money doing this to sustain my lifestyle.

I [would/would not] like to work on this full time.

I am sure that this is something I should be pursuing (agree/disagree)

I have a clear sense of the things I need to do to succeed or improve. (ag [...]

10 Surefire Ways to Increase Your Chance of Startup Failure Thisisgoingtobebig Aug 13, 2015

1. Don't bother creating any kind of cash flow model, because it's bullshit, right?

2. Overestimate the value and volume of the "data" that you'll collect when lots of users are on your platform.

3. Assume that lots of users will be using your platform when you don't even have a good plan to get the first 500.

4. Skip talking to the specific person at that big customer who you believe will one day spend lots of money on your platform.

5. Copy the strategies of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Uber, etc., because you fail to realize that those companies were developed in completely different competitive environments and also raised hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars in VC money to get where they're going.

6. Think of yourself as the "Uber for" when you don't even understand what makes Uber "Uber"--namely a commoditized, interchangeable workforce performing singular tasks whose demand is unpredictable geographically and schedulewise, that had lots of unused inventory.

7. Fail to appreciate what product management is--because you think that all you need is a technical co-founder to build something that people love.

8. Fail to understand the relationship between continuing to hire salespeople and growing your revenues, and fail to figure out what the payback is on hiring an additional salesperson.

9. Thinking that PR alone is going to get you millions of users.

10. Worrying about dilution and not raising enough money early on, and then raising far too much money later once you're successful--so much that you can't get out from under it.

An Early-Stage Founder’s Quick & Dirty Guide To Growth

An Early-Stage Founder’s Quick & Dirty Guide To Growth Onstartups Aug 5, 2015

The following is a guest post by William Griggs. William is the Founder of Startup Slingshot, the resource for battle-tested startup strategies. Access the audio interviews of today’s featured growth practitioners, the full 43 page guide, and tons of resources here (free for now).

What to Expect When You're Expecting Venture Capital Returns Thisisgoingtobebig Jul 30, 2015

One of the first things I did when I joined the venture asset class as a lowly institutional LP analyst in 2001 was to build the VC fund cashflow model. Just about every analyst who looks at fund investing has built one. You incorporate expected company returns, mortality rates, and fee structures to try to predict how a venture capital fund works from a cash in, cash out, and NAV standpoint.

It's basically the unifying theory behind all your assumptions about 10% of the investments driving most of the returns, needing certain multiples of return, and the basics of how many deals you do a year, with fees layered on.

Let's be clear about this exercise. It's not perfect. There are all sorts of wacky cludges and hacks in it, like the idea that every company performs exactly the same over time, because you don't know *when* the winners and losers happen. You wind up with a Schroedinger's Cat type model where you invest in a company and it partially dies and partially exits over time. This way, you smooth out all the lumpiness of time when multiplied out across 30 or so deals. And no, the numbers don't exactly add up--but they're more than close enough for venture capital.

It's also not the "average fund". You don't want the "average" fund, because average funds don't do well--just like you don't want to model the average startup, because you might as well draw a big flaming hole in the ground. Venture capital is all about finding the extraordinary. It's about building the exceptions.

On the other hand, you can't exactly model out being in Accel Facebook fund, the First Round Uber fund, or the Lowercase Twitter fund. So when you think about returns, what should you expect.

What I tried to model out is "institutional quality" funds--funds that have access to winners--those winners being "normal", however. Not unicorns necessarily, which require the suspension of reality to believe you can consistently pick them.

The average VC-backed exit is somewhere ar [...]

Survivors Bothsidesofthetable Jul 30, 2015

Failure. To most people it smells. People are afraid of […]

What You Can Learn from a Scorpion Bothsidesofthetable Jul 26, 2015

The hardest thing about starting a company is that from […]

How the Hell do I Prioritize Work, Blog & Find Balance?

How the Hell do I Prioritize Work, Blog & Find Balance? Bothsidesofthetable Jul 14, 2015

I noticed this post today from Ezra Galston titled R […]

Backing someone pre-pitch: The story of how I backed Clubhouse Thisisgoingtobebig Jul 22, 2015

I'm excited to be able to finally announce Brooklyn Bridge Ventures' investment in Clubhouse, a company I agreed to back before I even knew what it was.

In 2010, a bunch of techies got together to do the next year's NYC Triathlon. I had already done two and was looking forward to joining people from the tech community.

It was also right around that time when I started CTO School--a small five session series on how to go from being a developer to a technical leader, which blossomed into a not only a very active meetup, but also gave birth to a great conference series as well.

Of course, I had no business starting such a group, so I enlisted the help of some people I had met through the community--like my fellow triathlete Kurt Schrader, who was, at the time, leading tech for Intent Media.

Kurt is a no-nonsense guy with fantastic experience growing and managing technical teams. He's direct, focused, and he gave me great feedback on what to teach about how to get teams working together at scale--so great that I roped him into giving the talk, and eventually co-founding the meetup group that CTO School became.

We stayed in touch, doing a couple of tris together, chatting about startups, and venture, life, etc. I was really impressed with his ability to distill things down to what was really important--and his constructively critical eye when it came to the buzz around products that most people just didn't need.

So when we grabbed dinner about a year ago and he told me he gave notice, and that he had a guy working on a thing (that guy was his co-founder Andrew Childs), I just said "I'm in."

I didn't even know what he was working on--but Kurt isn't the kind of guy that wastes his time on some Uber for moustache grooming app. For him to leave a great job at a growing company where he had become CTO, it had to be real. Kurt is the kind of founder you back whenever they're working on something, and I've had a lot of success backing pre-product founders l [...]

The Loneliness of Success that Nobody Talks About

The Loneliness of Success that Nobody Talks About Bothsidesofthetable Jul 19, 2015

Yesterday I saw two biopic films: “Amy” abo […]

When doing the right thing by people is also the better business model: Why I backed Homer Logistics Thisisgoingtobebig Jul 21, 2015

Late last year, Adam Price opened by eyes to a group invisible to most New Yorkers--bicycling food delivery guys. He told me about how they get their jobs, what they make, how they make it, and about all of the various problems that come with being a 1099 worker--or being completely off the books.

He told me months and months ago, before anything came out about Uber's workforce, how it was never going to work in a world of increased "on demand" services. He outlined some of the issues in a recent blog post:

Using 1099 workers--people who, by definition, you can't tell where and when to be at a certain spot, is inherently inefficient. The explosion in on demand apps and services meant that any retailer or restaurant didn't just have one firehose of demand to drink from--they had eight. These small businesses needed a single delivery solution in order to focus on what they do best--whether it's making food or curating products to sell in a store. That's what Homer is. It's not a B2C company. You order from Seamless or wherever the way you normally do, and the restaurant turns the delicious meal over to Homer, the delivery experts. This way, Homer doesn't have to raise hundreds of millions of venture capital dollars to change consumer ordering behavior.

He created Homer in order to solve those logistics problems, but he was especially proud of another problem that he solved:

These delivery workers were highly underpaid--because they were working off of tips and were highly underutilized. When you have a single shop that has varied demand throughout the day, the amount of money you can make delivering is really low. Sometimes, you'll get zero orders in an hour and you'll just be stuck with the $5 wage you're being paid--if that.

What happens when you start batching all of these orders across restaurants is that now you're getting two, three, four, or even five orders, not just in peak orders--but every hour--and sometimes more. Now you're pushing hourly w [...]

Bill DeBlasio's Uber targeting is in danger of making NYC a tech joke Thisisgoingtobebig Jul 15, 2015

Mayor Bill DeBlasio is on the verge of making NYC one of the most unfriendly cities in the world for technology companies to operate.

It first started with Airbnb, which got caught in a crackdown aimed at people who turn "affordable" residential housing into full time hotel space. Don't concern yourself with the fact that Airbnb is simply an outgrowth of the lack of affordable housing--where no one would ever bother renting out their place if they didn't have to struggle to afford to live here. Don't concern yourself with the fact that it's the city that green lights all of the luxury condos going up all over the city in place of reasonable housing.

They could have created a reasonable, nuanced set of rules that allows me to rent my place out when I'm not there, like the four times a year I'm out in San Francisco trying to convince valley VCs to invest here, to someone who needs it. Most of these renters are tourists who contribute to the NYC economy and who can't afford $450 a night for a hotel--people we should be aiming to attract. Instead, the baby got thrown out with the bathwater here and renting your whole place is illegal.

And now, our anti-tech progress Mayor is helping NYC join an exclusive list of cities that have stood in the way of Uber providing an innovative consumer service that is in high demand.

Regardless of how you feel about Uber as a company or their management, it's really hard to argue that New Yorkers don't want this service. It's also hard to argue that anyone who supports NYC's tech community wouldn't have rather had Uber build their company here versus in San Francisco. Uber employs 3000 people, more than most startups in NYC do, and is only six years old. Same with Airbnb. Imagine what the NYC tech community would be like had Uber and Airbnb grown up here.

Well, what are the chances of that given our anti-innovation policies regarding these two companies?

Would NYC rather be on the side of innovation, or the side of the [...]

How Many Angels is the Right Amount for a Startup to Have? Bothsidesofthetable Jul 8, 2015

If you follow the Twittersphere you may have noticed se […]

Why Immigration and The Fourth of July are so Entwined

Why Immigration and The Fourth of July are so Entwined Bothsidesofthetable Jul 4, 2015

The Fourth of July. The day we celebrate American indep […]

Why Taking Some Risks in the Sales Process Can Improve Results Bothsidesofthetable Jul 6, 2015

Many people are too cautious in sales processes and as […]

What Scales? Thisisgoingtobebig Jul 2, 2015

I've got a great deal for you...

It requires you to set up the operation from scratch in every city--and it probably only works in cities.

There is a ton of regulatory risk.

Right now the market is pretty much only high net worth individuals.

Oh... You only invest in scalable businesses? Sorry, I didn't realize. I'll keep that in mind for next time.

Congrats, you passed on Uber.

And you know what--if "scalability" was an important criteria for you, and you wanted businesses where all you had to do was write a bit of code and people started paying you software margins all along the way, you would have rightfully passed. You would have also passed on Fitbit, Nest, Tesla, SpaceX, Blue Apron, Makerbot and a whole host of other things.

At least you would have done Slack.

Yet, as cash friendly as Slack could be--where it could easily have Kickstarter or Craigslist-like cashflow to cap table like ratios, it is still raising hundreds of millions of dollars. So does it really matter if it's being spent on developers or factories. Dollars are still dollars. Look how much Twitter and Facebook raised before exit.

Seems to me that every deal is a tradeoff. Retail stores may not have the same margin or viral growth, but what they spend to build a store is what they don't spend in customer acquisition dollars that Blue Apron spends. What Canary spends to build a product they make back in a clear path to revenue that Pinterest may or may not ever see. They certainly don't make as much per customer as Canary does.

To me, I care about whether something is unit profitable, whether the market is big enough, and whether your business gets easier or harder to run the more business you do. Even in retail, managing more stores is hard, but you also have enough revenues to justify a layer of management expertise that makes your business easier to run. You've got more customer awareness as well. Marketing the 10th Soul Cycle location is easier than marketing the [...]


Fauxmentum Bothsidesofthetable Jul 1, 2015

________________________________ faux·men·tum fōˈmen(t) […]

Products I Love to Use

Products I Love to Use Bothsidesofthetable Jun 29, 2015

Every year around the holidays journalists and bloggers […]

Doing some good with the people who want your time Thisisgoingtobebig Jun 24, 2015

In the last two days, I've had three different conversations with people who were asking me what I do with the people who want to grab coffee when the mutual benefit isn't immediately mutual. Don't get me wrong--these are people who are all extremely generous with their time--and that's probably why more people reach out to them. You have a useful meeting with someone and then they tell someone else it was useful, and so on, and so on...

Unfortunately, you only have so many hours in the day--well, the working day, anyway. You do, however, do other things--things that not everyone might be interested in, but if they *really* wanted to meet with you, they'd do.

I'm talking about volunteering.

A lot of people in the tech and startup community volunteer their time to various non-profits--things that always need more help. It's too easy for someone to ask you for coffee. What if you responded with "happy to connect up, why don't you meet me at this soup kitchen Thursday morning?"

Actually, it would be fantastic for you to give them an address and make it a place that hands out breakfast to the homeless or something.

"Oh, did you think *we* were having breakfast? Oh, no, I meant we'll be giving other people breakfast."

Anyone that doesn't stick around for that isn't the kind of person you'd want to meet up with anyway.

For me, it's volunteering to help give the public a free kayaking experience. I co-founded the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse. Our paddlers are mostly local, diverse, working class or lower income--basically anyone who lives within walking distance of the park that isn't going to be paying to kayak in the Hamptons this summer. It's a group of people whose lives involve a lot of waiting on line for stuff undoubtedly, and who can't pay their way around the process. We provide an empowering but safe experience to a lot of people who may not have ever been on the water or who believed themselves capable of paddling their own kayak around on [...]

Want to Know How to Join One of the Country’s Most Successful VC Fund? Bothsidesofthetable Jun 24, 2015

I recently interviewed Matt Mazzeo of Lowercase Capital […]

Should the Founder be the CEO of a Startup Until the End?

Should the Founder be the CEO of a Startup Until the End? Bothsidesofthetable Jun 25, 2015

Reid Hoffman (founder) and Jeff Weiner (CEO) of LinkedI […]