2013 has proved to be a wild year. Companies being created has continued to go up dramatically making managing dealflow nearly impossible.
Thank you to Tasha for helping to keep me sane by managing the onslaught of meeting requests, board meetings and constant change. You’ve had a few difficult years outside of work – I feel confident 2014 is going to be a great one!
In the market we’ve seen the massive uptick of SaaS valuations in the public markets and commensurate attention on private market fundings and valuations.
Meanwhile while social networking was white hot 3 years ago it is now persona non grata unless your user numbers are insane.
eCommerce was battered this year.
Some Ad Tech has skyrockets some has suffered. Mixed bag.
2013 was the year of wearable devices and physical products.
I’m sure in 2-3 years all of these trends will be reversed.
So with the wild ride of 2013 I had thoughts about what made me thankful this year.
We’ve had some big breakouts, some unexpected slips and some continued struggles.
I’m thankful to the associates at Upfront Ventures for helping me to evaluate our new opportunities and for helping me be prepared for issues with our portfolio companies. I know you’re our unsung heroes and I appreciate what you do.
I’m thankful to the founders of the companies that I invested in where the business has been on a crazy growth trajectory over the past year or two. What many people don’t understand is that the stresses associated with success are significant.
I’m thankful to all of the time away from family that Courtney Holt has put in at Maker Studios. He joined when we were a small team with no revenue and shitty offices. I’m proud to see the success he has helped create and the insane effort he continues to deliver.
One of the unavoidable realities of building a startup is having to fire people.
In a normal business you can often sweep bad performers under the rug and not deal with them. When you have millions or billions of dollars of revenue you can suffer a few bad performers or bad apples. You can miss a quarter’s target and not cull the inefficiencies. I’m not saying you should, but you could.
But in startups this equals death.
Death because just 3 extra non-performing employees in a company of 15 can either accelerate cash out date or can dramatically lower your productivity.
I’ve spoken about this before and my mantra, “Hire Fast, Fire Fast.”
When I first started my career I came across a term for this that has always stuck in my head and serves as a useful reminder of this mantra.
We called it “PURE.”
Previously. Undetected. Recruiting. Error.
My premise with “hire fast, fire fast” is that some companies over-analyze potential recruits and therefore chew up valuable months with functions unfilled.
Nearly four months ago we rebranded at Upfront Ventures. You can watch the video below for a very brief overview of why we rebranded and where we see our place in the VC ecosystem along with what has changed in our industry.
Often I advise startup companies not to try and pin all of your brand equity into an announcement. A brand is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s something you must earn over time by living up to the name you define.
If you choose your name well and it represents what your customers value in you then it will be memorable, differentiated and meaningful.
We have a few portfolio companies going through brand changes. And as a result I thought it was a good time to reflect on how we were doing with our own brand relaunch. We are trying hard to live up to the guidelines we laid out for our investors, our portfolio companies and our community.
Relaunching our brand is part of our larger initiative to build a VC firm of the future. We don’t lay claim to being the only VC to change or think about the future or to having the only or best strategy.
Most people suck at presenting to big groups. It’s a shame because the ability to nail these presentations at key conferences can be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to influence journalists, business partners, potential employees, customers and VCs.
So I thought I’d write a piece on how not to suck when you give a presentation.
1. Show some energy! – No great presentation can be delivered like a conversation. You’re not lecturing to a college class, you’re not at a cocktail party and you’re not chatting with a small group in a board meeting. You’re on stage!
People are sitting in their chairs for too long – most of them squirming. Many of them have their iPhones and laptops ready to command their attention the moment that you start sucking. You’re on stage – act like it! Get out of your comfort zone. You need to be an order of magnitude more perky than you would feel comfortable with in a normal conversation.
Project your voice. Use your hands. Don’t mumble. Speak quickly sometimes. Speak slowly to emphasize a point. This is called “vocal variety” and it’s critical. Speaking in a monotone voice is, well, monotonous.
I’ve been involved with technology product design in one form or another for nearly 25 years and seen one mistake consistently repeated.
The single biggest mistake most product teams make is building technology for what they believe the user would want rather than what the actual end-user needs.
From the experience in my earliest days of designing products for Windows and OS2 machines in the early 1990′s I developed a product philosophy, “Design for the novice, configure for the pro.”
Most technologists design for themselves and then test with uncorrelated user groups only months after product launch – if ever. If you’ve never sat through real user testing where users are given simple tasks to complete with little to no instructions on how to complete said tasks you will be shocked when you see how what you assume are the simplest set of tasks create the most difficult user experiences.
I learned the hard way.