Lee Hower, Partner/CoFounder of NextView Ventures

Lee speaks so well, it’s almost pointless for me to comment. Watch it and you’ll understand how NextView has been able to raise a fund and rack in 3 exits in the past 6 months. Just a class outfit.

Here are some shownotes related to the video.

0:30 Being a double unicorn–getting in early at Paypal and LinkedIn

3:00 Moving back to New England from Silicon Valley

4:45 Where NextView fits in in the VC ecosystem

6:30 Sourcing early stage deals

9:15 The investment decision process

His company website:  NextView Ventures

Lee’s blog: AgileVC

David Beisel’s blog and a link to WebInno, Boston’s tech demo destination

Rob Go’s blog and a link to the new and improved Hitchhiker’s Guide to Boston Tech (MUST READ)

Jay Acunzo’s blog, SorryforMarketing

Talking with coUrbanize CEO/CoFounder Karin Brandt

I was delighted to catch up with Karin Brandt. I was even more delighted to learn that coUrbanize‘s product is taking off. And I was really really happy to learn that coUrbanize is cash-flow positive just a year and a half out of her TechStars Boston 2013 class. (Her fellow classmates Codeship were featured a few days earlier here.)

coUrbanize’s value proposition is easy to understand: it helps communities and urban developers build better cities, together. With its interactive platform, coUrbanize helps developers to distribute project information and gather online feedback so everybody has the facts and can easily participate. This minimizes misunderstandings that can cause confusion, objections, or unnecessary delays. And that saves their real estate developer clients and municipal clients big bucks and big headaches.

Karin talks about her current challenge, which is to take her proven business model and making it scale. First steps–building up a sales force, which I have always found the toughest task. But when your product is an order of magnitude easier and better than the traditional way, sales gets a lot easier.

Office Hours with SuperAngel Joe Caruso

Joe Caruso’s investment philosophy and track record is open for all to see on his BantamGroup website–and when you study it, it’s quickly apparent that he’s had over 40 good exits and 6 “golazos”.  We squeezed into a slot on Joe’s schedule while he was seeing entrepreneurs during his regular open office hours at the Cambridge Innovation Center…before he was off to do the same later in the week at MassChallenge, TechStars, and several of the university-sponsored incubators in and around Boston.

IMG_20141016_154740

JoeCaruso office hours

Joe talks about why he prefers conversations to “getting pitched”, some of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make while telling their stories, the need listen to what the market is telling you, advice for new angels, and other nuggets that anyone involved in the venture game will enjoy.

Catching up with Codeship

In the past month I’ve started on a 5 Step Program to Regain My Investing Chops, and part of that is to revisit with my existing portfolio companies. I’m going to be the local ones and posting the videos I’m making while I’m at it.

Some of the Codeship team (Navy? Flotilla? Mannschaft?) were back at TechStars to share with the current class some of their learnings, and I caught up with them just after. (And got one of those SWEET sweatshirts like Flo is wearing. Who says mentors don’t learn from their mentees? I’m getting my next swag via Bratislava.)

Anyway, enjoy. And if you’re creating software with Ruby, Java, Python, PHP, etc., there is NO reason not to use Codeship to test and efficiently and continuously deploy your code. Check out their Youtube Channel for lots of demos and tutorials of the features they’ve built. And spoiler alert–they’re hiring!

codeship logo

My Fun New SideProject: Introducing StartupGrid

startupsign

I’m teaming up with the New England Venture Capital Association to create StartupGrid, an authoritative compilation of advice, expertise, and thought leadership from New England’s top VCs, angels, entrepreneurs, and service providers.

What is Startup Grid and Why is it Needed?

As entrepreneurship becomes more fashionable, so does offering startup advice. But it’s everywhere, it’s messy, it’s disorganized and it’s of inconsistent quality. Instead of leaving it to a time-starved entrepreneur to navigate a whole Internet’s worth of content, we’re gathering, curating, and organizing the best startup material in one place. To this collection, we’re adding a much-needed human element by including video clips from New England’s startup authorities. It’s our way of helping entrepreneurs save valuable time and avoid reinventing the wheel.

CA   Jake

C.A.                                      Jake

Kitt    Adam

Kitt                                      Adam

Who are my fellow early organizers?

C.A. Webb and Kitt George from the NEVCA will be helping coordinate with the VC community, intern Jake Vacovec will be leading a team of Middlebury College students cataloguing content, and my old colleague Adam Bouchard, head of Agilion.com, will be leading the web app development. I will be reaching out to many more of you, though, for help. In January, we are getting an entire flotilla of Middlebury students to crank this out as part of their J-term project. Expect an early version out before the end of Q1.

How will the StartupGrid work?

Imagine a giant spreadsheet that contains links to curated quality content about starting up a company that currently exists on the net, whether that be in blogs, videos, podcasts, or slideshares. Each column of the grid will represent a person, cataloguing much of the best of that person’s published content. Every row of the spreadsheet will feature a question or topic, sorted into logical categories. “How aggressively should I try to price my seed round?” “What are the best rules of thumb on burn rate?” “Where can I find comparables about compensation for my new hires?”, “What sectors do you invest in?”

Want to know what opinions these thought leaders have on a topic? Travel across the row. Want to see everything posted by someone? Go down their column.

Additionally, local New England experts–not just VCs, but angels, lawyers, bankers, and prominent entrepreneurs–will each be asked to give 5-10 minutes of their time to briefly introduce themselves and talk about any relevant topic where they have a strong opinion. Jake will take the raw video footage, chop it into segments as appropriate, post the on Wistia/YouTube, tag the contents, and then put the link in the appropriate row and column of the grid. Voila: an easily searchable, free resource. In time we hope to link in all media, including audio and video podcasts, slide shares, web content from Quora and from startup personalities around the globe, the works. But starting now, we’ll be focusing on interviews and blogs.

Benefit for Beginning Entrepreneurs

How can this be used? Entrepreneurs, let’s say you are going to meet a potential VC or angel who has been interviewed and is on the grid. Want to do some homework before your meeting? Simply click on the investor’s icon (representing the “column”), and learn his or her opinions on any number of subjects. More importantly, get a sense of the person. And maybe do the same for all the other partners at that venture capital firm.

Or let’s say you need help on a troubling topic. Troubled by some issues related to, say, equity options? Go to the topic page, click on “Equity Options”, and all the rows with questions that apply will show up. You’ll quickly have access to what the entire New England community has to say on your topic.

Benefit for Seasoned Entrepreneurs

If you’re one of the stars we invite to participate, this may be a great way for you to build your personal brand, helping you both in recruiting talent and letting investors check you out.

Benefit for Investors

For investors and service providers, this is not just a place to get some inbound marketing, this is a way to make some deposits in the karma bank and pay it forward. You control your message, and we’ll do the rest. Hopefully this is a source of more qualified leads, and is an efficient way to show what you know and what it’s like to work with you.

Benefit to service providers/experts

Show off your stuff! ‘Nuff said. And get a chance to make a deposit in the karma bank. You KNOW it pays in the end.

What happens to the content

Anyone will be able to access the content and link to it. If, for any reason, you should change your opinion, your job, or want to go into the witness protection program, just say the word and we’ll remove the relevant files.

What questions will be asked?

We all know there is nothing new under the sun. We will be going through many of the major blogs, Quora, Venture Hacks, etc., to crowdsource the most commonly asked questions to start us off. But if there’s any topic you want to sound off–feel free, and we’ll include it.

Is this a one-shot deal?

Who knows? For now, it’s just a fun side project and experiment. If people use it, we can probably harness an unlimited supply of interns willing to catalog and update the project. All of the material is UGC, but think more HackerNews rather than Wikipedia, as we’ll vet the content before it goes live. And, like Zemanta, we will make connections not just to current content but also blasts from the past, so entrepreneurs get the best of both the old and new advice.

Interested in participating?

Great! We’ll start doing interviews and collecting materials through the rest of 2014. Feel free to contact me in the comments below or at ty@tydanco.com, and we’ll connect. At a VC firm? C.A. or I can arrange for us to come to your offices to do all of your investors in one setting. If scheduling doesn’t work out for an in person visit, we can do interviews via Skype—my guess this will be most of them, but don’t worry, we’re not about production values, we’re about quality content.

It can take as little as 5 minutes or as much time as you like–we aim to make you look good. Don’t have Skype and want to do it on your own schedule? We can arrange for you to do it solo, via the TakeTheInterview webapp.

Think about what matters to you, where you have a strong opinion–especially if it may be different than that of the herd. For example, I want to talk about best practices in managing advisory boards and how that differs from a board of directors, and best ways to communicate with investors. What do you want to talk about? The podium is yours.

Don’t want to interview, but want to help?

Call me at 802 922 2916. Suggest your favorite material for us to catalogue, tag and cross-reference. Toss in some sponsorship bucks for the interns. Talk up the idea. We gladly accept all help.

Should be fun!

DUMP THE ALPHABET ALREADY!

 alphabet-soup

Is it a seed? An A? A Seed 2? Praise be to Marc Andreessen’s tweet and Mark Suster’s reply on what a funding round is called. It’s confusing and misleading.

I’ve invested in private companies for years, and I still have no consistent idea of how people talk, having done rounds nominally called “B”s valued on $3mm pre, and one “Seed” valued at $20mm. But I sure wouldn’t use those terms to describe the investments, they have no meaning.

Not that I’m innocent. Of the two companies I founded, the eSecLending only raised once, but it was $10mm. Clearly, for first time out we didn’t call it a B round, but by most size standards it was. And the second company, BuysideFX raised two $2mm tranches, both of which we folded into the same legal docs (“Seed” and “Seed2” tranches), with different valuations but with same voting rights as per the preferred shareholder seat. Confusing, yes?

And does the expectation of what a typical size round vary by vintage? Is a 2000 A size round equal a 2014 B?

It shouldn’t be this confusing. Here’s my proposal. Let’s just adapt the nomenclature that investors use informally, and talk about “ON” and “AFTER”. “2 on 6” means you’re raising $2mm with a post-money valuation of 8mm. (6 was the pre-money valuation.) Raising “10 after 3” means getting $10mm new dollars to follow after $3mm have already been invested…regardless of the number of times you actually had rounds.

Let’s say the example is Box. According to Mattermark, the company has raised successively:

  • an undisclosed amount
  • 350k “Angel” round
  • $1.5mm Series A
  • $6mm Series B
  • Unknown round $5.1mm
  • Unknown round $7.1mm
  • $15mm Series C
  • $48mm Series D
  • $81mm Series D again
  • $125 Series E
  • $25 Series E
  • $100 Series F
  • Unknown round, $150mm
  • Another Unknown round, $150.

WTF?

Here’s how I’d phrase the last round: “150 after 550”. Not “unknown”, “the unknown after the unknown,” or “2 after F”. Even saying “the last one” doesn’t carry that much information if you’re unfamiliar with the company. Using “On” and “After” means you wouldn’t have to worry whether Box did multiple reopenings or unlettered rounds. If I knew the valuation (let’s call it $2B for fun,) you could say that last round was either “150 on 2B”, or “150 after 550”. Who cares what letter it is if you’re not trying to track down the legal docs. Anybody have better ideas?

Let’s dump the alphabet soup for some standard means of comparisons.

Small. Then Medium. Then Big. Then HUMONGOUS!

burj

Today I heard of some not-yet-out-of-school wantrepreneurs who believe that they have to promise to build a $billion company to woo investors and be worth their time. My advice: kids, don’t get ahead of yourselves.

Step 1: start by joining a young but vetted startup, say a YC or TechStars company. Those folks will undoubtedly have a year’s worth of funding locked up after demo day, a need for more employees, and you’ll be early enough to get a real birdseye view of all that’s involved in getting something going.

Step 2: You’ll already know now about things like fundraising, building and maintaining corporate culture, what works for you and what doesn’t, and you’ll be more fundable. Go hit a single. Don’t be embarrassed by an early exit, or handing it off to an entrepreneur who is skilled in scaling.

Step 3: Guess what: now you’re a successful, serial entrepreneur. The world is your oyster. Now you can go big. You have connections, you’ll have knowledge, and you’re now picking and choosing who will be in your syndicate.

Think of the great repeat entrepreneurs. Almost always, their exits got bigger with each company.  Before you go Burj, start with a tall or a grande.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 120 other followers

%d bloggers like this: