When I first met Meredith Perry she was 24. That was three months ago this week. Today I’m handing her the largest A-round check I’ve ever written as a VC as we lead her $10 million A-Round at uBeam.
As I’ve written about recently, at Upfront Ventures we started talking a couple of years ago about wanting to fund stuff with more meaning. I think this is a combination of being realists as venture capitalists that outsized returns in our funds must come from taking on bigger, more impactful projects that can move markets. It is also a function of the stage of much of our careers where we aren’t interested in playing small ball with incrementalism on how to squeeze out an extra 5% of margin by optimizing the Internet slightly better.
The reality is that as VCs we have limited allocations of where we can spend our time so we want to attach ourselves to projects in which we, too, can be passionate. It’s true the some VCs have started writing so many checks that they resemble stock pickers but the majority of us still have less than 10 board seats at any time and tend to go pretty deep so the result is that we care deeply about where we commit our time.
Meredith came to see me along with the CTO Marc Berte. They had been introduced by my friend Brian Garrett, a partner at Crosscut Ventures and the ambition outlined in their deck seemed almost unbelievable, “to make wireless charging of phones (and other devices) as easy as WiFi” that I had to see it for myself.
I’m pretty on record as saying I don’t think many private-to-private tech mergers make sense. They are often done from a position of weakness. Something in both companies isn’t working, which is why they come together.
I often don’t believe in the therm M&A because in my experience mostly A works.
But of course there are always exceptions. And even when I remain skeptical sometimes opportunities present themselves that prove one should never be absolutist.
As many people know I funded a company called Moonfrye almost 2 years ago led by two amazing women – Kara Nortman & Soleil Moon Frye. Our goal from the outset was to build a great eCommerce experience that could compete with Michels on one side (for DIY / crafting) and Party City on the other (throwing events / parties / celebrations).
The thesis was simple. Mom’s struggle to plan events and activities for their kids. Most products out there suck so mom gets stuck with angst of wanting to have decorations, activities and chatzkies for other kids to take home. What should be an enjoyable experience turns into a time-suck obligation and angst-ridden day of self questioning.
Our product name is P.S.
Yesterday I wrote a post about The Silent Benefits of PR in which I pointed out that most young companies I encounter don’t fully grasp the benefits of PR because they are less measurable than product milestones or customer acquisition analyses (like CAC/LTV).
In that article I talked about how PR drives: recruiting, employee retention, biz dev deals, funding and even M&A and that often “attribution” to your PR activities is unknown. It’s like “direct” traffic to your website that seems to magically appear.
But of course it’s hard to advise people that they should do PR without a guide to how to do it on the cheap or how to do it at all.
When to start PR?
I’m generally not a believer in too much PR until you have a product built or at least well designed. This is somewhat changing in the world of crowd funding where people actually raise money so that they can build products but at a minimum your product design ought to be complete and ready to execute.
I’ve been having this PR discussion with three separate portfolio companies at once so I thought I’d just publish my thoughts more broadly.
I have written many times about PR so if you want a deep dive on the “how” of PR you may enjoy reading some of these posts.
PR is an insanely valuable activity in early-stage companies. Very few investors understand this and even fewer startups. When you’re an early-stage business every dollar matters and because many startup teams these days are very product & technology centric they often miscalculate the importance of PR. I believe PR is often not tangibly measurable and for quant-oriented people this is hard to accept.
The benefits of PR are exactly that: Immeasurable. They are silent. They don’t show up in a calculation that says I spent $7,000 and I got X-thousands inches of press. It doesn’t work that way.
1. Recruiting – One of the hardest tasks of any startups is recruiting world-class talent.
We are often asked how companies get funded, why VCs make the decisions we make and what we’re looking for in entrepreneurs. I think this is a Seriously great example of how this process works for at least one VC – Upfront Ventures. But I’m guessing the narrative is similar elsewhere.
I first met Andrew Stalbow, the founder & CEO of Seriously in August of 2013. He hit me from two very trusted sources. On August 23rd, 2013 I had an email intro from my good friend and trusted source Jeff Berman who only sends me stuff when it is somebody he respects (ie a strong filter vs. those who send casual intros). On August 26th I had an equally effusive intro from Ynon Kreiz, also a friend, trusted source and also the CEO of portfolio company Maker Studios. So this was definitely an introduction I was going to take.
We met on August 28th, 2013 and I know this because literally the next day