Discover Inside tech startups

The voice of VCs and entrepreneurs

Inside tech startups

Some Perspective on Twitter vs. Meerkat

Some Perspective on Twitter vs. Meerkat Bothsidesofthetable Mar 15, 2015

* I love Twitter. So far I’m loving Meerkat, too. […]

The post Some Perspective on Twitter vs. Meerkat appeared first on Bothsides of the Table.

No Comment Thisisgoingtobebig Mar 25, 2015

All of three of you seemed to notice that my new blog design is missing comments. That's because it was rare that any more than three people ever commented on my blog in the first place.

Don't get me wrong. I wanted feedback. I love feedback, but most of the feedback wasn't happening in the comments. It was happening by e-mail and on Twitter. So, I'd occasionally get a comment or two... and once in a blue moon I'd get like eight.

In over a decade of blogging, I've never found a consistent writing schedule. I write like I do now, finding twenty minutes here and there in between meetings, and then I rush off to something. So, if I get comments, I can't seem to prioritize responding to them sooner than two days later.

On Twitter, however, I'm very responsive.... so Twitter has always been a much better way to interact with me around my blog anyway. It's probably where I get most of my traffic as well. I still get a lot of e-mail subscribers as well, and they just hit reply.

So, I decided, in an effort to clean up all of the superfluous design elements from my blog, that I wasn't going to carry over my Disqus comments. I never go back to them and they weren't much of a community. I'm happy to engage around any aspect of my blog in public on Twitter or by e-mail, but I won't be doing it through a comments feature anymore. It's a time and effort thing, and a quality bar.

Also, you're welcome to disagree on your own blog. :)

An Insider's Look At HubSpot Sidekick's Growth Approach

An Insider's Look At HubSpot Sidekick's Growth Approach Onstartups Mar 18, 2015

The Sidekick growth team is a small, data driven and aggressive group within HubSpot that works on new, emerging products with massive audiences and a freemium business model (similar to Dropbox and Evernote). We are constantly pushing ourselves to learn new growth strategies, tactics, and techniques. I have personally become more data driven and model driven after joining the team, and wanted to walk through an example of one decision that became much easier with the use of our generic problem solving framework.

I am a big believer in the idea that complicated problems look simple when you are able to break them down. Don’t take my word for it - this is what was attributed to Einstein:

If he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution

The Sidekick growth team follows a very straightforward process that strives to take complicated choices, and analyze them to produce areas of opportunity:

Step 1: Choose a goal

Step 2: Build a model

Step 3: Analyze the inputs

Step 4: Identify opportunities

What I’ve Learned from Fred Wilson Bothsidesofthetable Mar 24, 2015

Last week Fred Wilson and I sat down in Santa Monica fo […]

The post What I’ve Learned from Fred Wilson appeared first on Bothsides of the Table.

Why the New Seed Might Be a Bad Seed Thisisgoingtobebig Mar 23, 2015

About a year ago, I started hearing about the existence of a "pre-seed" round. At first, it sounded ridiculous. Actually, it still sounds ridiculous to me. The term "seed" implies the very beginning to me. If you can't go to "seed" investors for your very first investment because you're too early, that just seems weird to me.

At Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, I want to be part of the first money to go into a company, no matter what you call it. I do the same kind of rounds today that I was doing five years ago. Two of the first deals I ever did at my previous fund were part of an $800k round of investment into Backupify, which recently sold to Datto, and an $850k round into GroupMe, just after they built a prototype at a Hackathon. They're at a similar stage to my investments now out of Brooklyn Bridge backing Tinybop pre-launch, Canary before their Indiegogo pre-sale, and VIXXENN with just an alpha site and a few stylists.

What's interesting is that those earlier rounds wouldn't be called seed rounds today--and many of the investors in those rounds wouldn't have necessarily participated in them now. Fund size has a lot to do with it. The larger your fund, the larger the checks you need to write and so putting $200k to work at a time doesn't make economic sense for many investors. So whereas seed rounds five years ago may have been less than a million dollars on a pre-money valuation of three or four million, today's seed is up and over a million and usually closer to two million, with post money valuations nearing $10 million.

Josh Kopelman wrote recently that these rounds are much more entrepreneur friendly, especially in the wake of the "Series A Crunch". In fact, he wrote a few things that I think there's another way to look at.

"The problem is that the number of A rounds hasn't changed. That amount of Series A capital HAS NOT increased. So, if you have 4x the number of companies with seed funding, that's 4x the players competing for the same money… makin [...]

The Gift of the Ask Thisisgoingtobebig Mar 16, 2015

It's very easy to think of an ask as a negative--of a burden on someone.

When it comes to startups, however, especially when you've built up a great reputation and done a lot of good work for others, people are not only eager to help you, but they take great pride in being asked. Working with you is an opportunity. Getting a chance to take a leap with you is an opportunity. Earning equity in your endeavor, or having the opportunity to buy some of it on the ground floor, is an opportunity. It's a gift and you have to start thinking of it as one.

So, not only does that mean not being afraid to ask, but it also means realizing that if you don't ask, people can feel left behind. We join the startup world because we want to work with the best people. We want to work with innovators and those on the services side of the business--the lawyers, recruiters, and even investors, because I do think investors should be servers, want to be that first call.

When I raised my first fund, I send out a note to a bunch of people whoes input and experience I valued--people I would have been thrilled to work with. I didn't know if they were fund investors or not and I didn't want to put them in an awkward position by making a direct ask--so I just bcc'd them all. I said, "I assume you're not fund investors... but if you are and you want to be involved, I'd love to work with you. The last thing I want is anyone who I admire wondering whether I didn't value them enough to make the ask."

I'll be doing that again for my upcoming second fund as well. I don't expect many to respond, but if I truly think of my fund as an opportunity, it's important for me to know that I would have wanted to work with them.

What Do You Need to Do to Improve Sales? Here’s a Start … Bothsidesofthetable Mar 10, 2015

I write about sales often both because it’s the l […]

The post What Do You Need to Do to Improve Sales? Here’s a Start … appeared first on Bothsides of the Table.

The Magic Moment of Meerkat Bothsidesofthetable Mar 8, 2015

* Ok. If you work in tech this week you’ve no dou […]

The post The Magic Moment of Meerkat appeared first on Bothsides of the Table.

Meet me and Eric Ries at a private event on March 21st – here’s how to attend

Meet me and Eric Ries at a private event on March 21st – here’s how to attend Andrewchen Mar 4, 2015

Hi everyone, I’m hosting a fireside chat (whatever that is!) with Eric Ries on 3/21. It’ll be at a private event in the Dogpatch neighborhood of SF, and I’ve saved a few seats available for my regular readers to attend. A couple topics I plan to touch on: How Eric and I met in 2008 as unknown/unread […]

The post Meet me and Eric Ries at a private event on March 21st – here’s how to attend appeared first on @andrewchen.

How the Seed-Stage VC Trend Began, The Downsides of Unicorns & Much More Bothsidesofthetable Mar 6, 2015

* If you are a 20-something tech entrepreneur you could […]

The post How the Seed-Stage VC Trend Began, The Downsides of Unicorns & Much More appeared first on Bothsides of the Table.

Some thoughts on #Meerkat Thisisgoingtobebig Mar 5, 2015

Downloaded Meerkat yet?

It's the new new thing.

The app is five days old and getting in with all the right names in the Valley. (The company has been around for a few years, but this is a new product for them.)

It's so new, we don't even know if people are using it a second time, yet already it's been in the Wall Street Journal. (PS... Yuliya is really becoming an asset to the WSJ's tech coversage. Future star to watch.)

In 2007, I was at the SXSW where Twitter blew up. That's how I was able to get into the Hatching Twitter book, where, for some reason, Nick Bilton refers to me as short. I'm 5'11'', thank you. How tall is Nick, anyway?

In 2010, Foursquare hit it big in Austin not long after their funding, which I accidently kicked off with a blog post. If only I could have pulled that off with my own startup. [sad trombone]

In 2011, GroupMe seemed to be the winner. I had funded it out of a hackathon earlier that year.

So after being around all these apps, eight consecutive years of going down to Austin, speaking three times, judging a thing, hosting the first SXSW wiffle ball tourney, I'm feeling pretty darn qualified to weigh in on the ultimate future of a five day old app. I've even used it a couple of times!

If you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic...

You know the only answer VC's should feel qualified to give on this one?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Here, however, are a few early thoughts:

1) It's obviously the best live streaming mobile app we've ever seen. It's stupidly easy and the quality is way better than technology could ever get Qik to be back in the day.

2) Yes, it is definitely going to be a huge thing at SXSW. Yes, those of us not at SXSW (which I won't be this year... that's another story... just too big), will find it completely insufferable. You think we didn't want to see the Tweets and Instagrams of the parties... just wait to see how much we'll hate the drunk livestream of the parties.

3) Yes, it will get funded w [...]

Pitch me! Thisisgoingtobebig Mar 2, 2015

Working out of the Townhouse has been an interesting experience in that I'm working side by side with a lot of non-startup people. It's a co-working space full of creatives and freelancers, most of whom who have never pitched an investor, and probably never seen a startup pitch either. Their reaction to what I do day in and day out is very telling about how a lot of people, including VCs themselves, think of the job.

The first question I always get, which I find endlessly hilarious, is "Don't you get tired of people pitching you all the time?"

Umm... No. That's, well, a big chunk of the job.

I say that, but I'm not entirely sure all my peers understand that. One time, I spoke at a meetup that was divided into my talk and demos--and the organizer assumed I wanted to go on before the demos. I didn't understand why it would matter, but she told me that most of the investors like going before so they could skip out after the demos and not get bombared at the end of the event.

Seriously?

Well, I guess I'm not surprised. I've had a debate with other investors before about the "warm intro" requirement. For a seed fund, I find it a bit silly. Most founders barely have anything that looks like anything at this point, and most of them haven't done this before.

How good of a screen could someone else who doesn't do what I do be to make the intro?

Great, so you went to coffee with someone I know or maybe even funded once. The founders I backed aren't VCs (well, except Dave) so I don't know if that is such a great signal.

I asked another VC why they do this and they answered, "So we don't have to go through all the random crap."

If you're an investor that has a magical dealflow stream that isn't mostly random crap, please tell me how you do this. Also, if none of the investments you made first looked like random crap at the beginning, and you have a great track record, I'll buy you lunch.

Obviously, there's a wide spectrum of founders trying to rais [...]

5 Mistakes Founders Make When Hiring Their First Salesperson

5 Mistakes Founders Make When Hiring Their First Salesperson Onstartups Feb 25, 2015

Your MVP is complete. Some seed funding is in the bank, or maybe even a Series A. You’re anxious to see if your product flies off the shelf. It’s time to make that first sales hire.

The most common mistake when forecasting growth for new products (and how to fix it)

The most common mistake when forecasting growth for new products (and how to fix it) Andrewchen Feb 23, 2015

Forecasting weather is hard, and so is forecasting product growth. Startups are about growth Paul Graham’s essay in 2012 called “Startup = Growth” makes a big point in the first paragraph: A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. Nor is it necessary […]

The post The most common mistake when forecasting growth for new products (and how to fix it) appeared first on @andrewchen.

Here Are the Details About Upfront Ventures’ Newest EIR – @Chamillionaire

Here Are the Details About Upfront Ventures’ Newest EIR – @Chamillionaire Bothsidesofthetable Feb 23, 2015

Five-and-a-half years ago I first met Chamillionaire at […]

Some Career Advice for Aspiring Tech CEOs Bothsidesofthetable Feb 24, 2015

A shortened, better edited and with nicer pictures vers […]

Personal update: I’ve moved to Oakland! Here’s why.

Personal update: I’ve moved to Oakland! Here’s why. Andrewchen Feb 24, 2015

My new neighborhood, in Jack London Square, Oakland, CA. Where’d you move? I moved to a tiny neighborhood called Jack London Square in Oakland. Yes, it’s named for that guy that wrote about the gold rush. I’ve only been here 3 months but I really like it so far. Previously, I lived in Palo Alto […]

The post Personal update: I’ve moved to Oakland! Here’s why. appeared first on @andrewchen.

Taking My Hat Off to @Shervin and His Hyperloop Ambitions

Taking My Hat Off to @Shervin and His Hyperloop Ambitions Bothsidesofthetable Feb 13, 2015

* Shervin Pishevar. Many of the articles I’ve rea […]

Why You Need to Stop Hating Self Promotion Thisisgoingtobebig Feb 23, 2015

I counsel a lot of job seekers looking to get into the startup world. Very quickly, I lay out the fact that getting a job comes down to two very simple things:

1) Do you know what you do?

2) Does everyone else?

That's it.

If people had a clear concept of what value you bring to the table and lots of people understood that value, all you'd have to do is tweet that you were a free agent and the opportunities would come to you.

The only problem is, people don't like self promoting--and that's what they see the second part as. Tweeting, blogging, speaking on panels--as much as, ironically, you're reading this blog post and don't seem to have a terrible impression of me, you associate terms like self promotion and personal brand building as a narcisistic, somewhat douchy exercise that involves a lot of chest pounding and boastfulness. It's not how they want to talk about themselves.

Well, it doesn't have to be.

Your blog doesn't have to be like that. Your voice won't be seen as full of hot air--if you stick to what you know and self edit your tone. Can't you do that?

If Forbes wanted you to write a weekly column on the professional world around you, wouldn't you take it? So why is a blog any different?

There are lots of interesting opportunities out there, but it's incredibly hard for a startup team to go from not knowing anything about you at all to making you employee number five. It's exponentially easier when they're imagining who would make a great head of customer service and they think of you right away because you write this neat blog about the tactics of making customers happy.

If you really want to do what you love--let everyone know you love it. Be a public student of your craft. Show others what you bring to the table by writing down what you learned and what's hard about what you're still in the process of learning--and what's changing all around you.

Otherwise, you're leaving your job satisfaction to the randomness and ineff [...]

The race for Apple Watch’s killer app

The race for Apple Watch’s killer app Andrewchen Feb 17, 2015

The upcoming race As the release of the Apple Watch draws near, we’re seeing press coverage hit a frenzied pace – covering both the product, the watch’s designers, sales forecasts, and the retail displays. That’ll be fun for us as consumers. But for those of us who are in the business of building new products, the bigger news is […]

The post The race for Apple Watch’s killer app appeared first on @andrewchen.

The #vcbcc List Thisisgoingtobebig Feb 20, 2015

Two things ain't nobody got time for:

1) That.

2) Keeping track of all of the various criteria and foci of the hundreds of potential co-investors you could have in a seed round.

Especially not as a one partner fund.

Given that I often help my companies finish fundraising by introducing them to other investors, I wind up making a lot of intros. Keeping up with who does extra stage, what defines too early, who will only do B2B, consumer, etc., is a huge pain in the ass.

Granted, sometimes it's really clear that a deal is right for one particular co-investor, and that person or fund has done a great job branding that they want to see those types of deals, most VCs will look at a lot of different things and do things by exception all the time. Plus, they're always shifting around or refocusing on certain things.

So I've mostly given up.

Instead, I've started circulating a private list of things I'm working on--as well as a note about when some of my companies might be raising. I've also thrown in a few notes about good people I know who are looking for opportunities.

You want to know what deals I'm doing? Here they are. Knock yourself out. It's actually what SV Angel used to do back in the day, before the days of Angel List.

I've taken to calling it the #vcbcc list. Every month I send out a BCC note to about 190 investors who I know well, have done deals with, or who have asked me to keep them in mind for deals. I've sent out about three or four of them now and I'm thrilled to say that the list has now sourced over a million dollars of co-investors. Moreover, it gets me deals back in return--because sometimes it's just a matter of being top of mind for someone.

The best part is, a lot of the interest has been from VCs I wouldn't necessarily have thought of for that particular deal.

Do I worry about other people crowding me out of these deals? No... because if I try to make sure I build good enough relationships with the founders so that [...]

Be Careful About Being a Meddling Startup CEO Bothsidesofthetable Feb 17, 2015

* I recently wrote a post talking about how some VCs me […]

It’s Sofa King More Effective to Pick up the Phone Bothsidesofthetable Feb 11, 2015

* Phone calls. Millennials are allergic to them. I have […]

Why Most Online Video Companies Will Fail

Why Most Online Video Companies Will Fail Bothsidesofthetable Feb 9, 2015

I live in LA and fund startups. So you can imagine that […]

One Weird Trick to Build a Personal Brand

One Weird Trick to Build a Personal Brand Bothsidesofthetable Feb 4, 2015

  My long-time friend Jason Lemkin is on the verge […]

Here’s What The @NYTimes Should Teach Its Writers About Social Media

Here’s What The @NYTimes Should Teach Its Writers About Social Media Bothsidesofthetable Feb 1, 2015

Not everybody likes the NY Times. I happen to be a long […]

The Board Before the Board Thisisgoingtobebig Feb 9, 2015

Forming a board...  It's what the best performing companies do once they take on outside investors.  Board members can provide useful feedback, help to focus the founding team, and provide a network of contacts.  

Unfortunately, many companies don't get financing--because they don't get any of the above.  They don't get the feedback they need, especially around priorities.

Sometimes, the founders lack focus to the point where they don't even get to the point of company formation.  They get caught in a sea of too many problems, too many opportunities, without a good idea of what to do first to coalese their ideas into a single vision.  

A lot of friends and potential founders come to me with tons of ideas, or none at all, or half of one--but with the will and drive to create something, making it all extremely frustrating for them.  What do they do first?  How do they pick out their idea?

It's hard for me to get too involved, because committing time to help is a slippery slope.  For advisors, there's a real gap between one coffee and joining the company.  You want to help, but your time is limited.  

That's how board participation can help an advisor scale.  You're on the hook for a finite amount of meetings and the meetings are structured in such a way to prioritize the discussions that create the most impact on the company.

So why wait until you have a company to setup a board?

Most people have a fair number of people willing to help, but they get stuck in trying to figure out how to get the most help out of them.  

Setting up a simple board before you've even got a company can help you get into the practice of collecting feedback and getting nudged back into focus.  Going through the discipline of being accountable for your time, setting and sticking to goals and simply talking through problems with others can bring clarity to chaos.

I'd recommend that if you're going to get something off the ground, there are three people worth talking t [...]

You Can’t Rely on a VC to Make Your Hardest Decisions Bothsidesofthetable Feb 1, 2015

* What is the role of a VC for entrepreneurs? I suppose […]