Posts by Mark Suster


Shervin Pishevar.

Many of the articles I’ve read about him over the last several years have a listing of his biggest successes – mostly Uber – and a tinge of cynicism about his close connections with celebrities or self promotion. Not this one. I’m going to write a pure admiration piece. A “hats off” (see what I did there?) story about big bets and equally grand huevos. And also a “thank you.”

I first met Shervin (does he need a last name?) in 2009. We attended a fbFund demo day (which I rarely do but it was put on by my long-time buddy Dave McClure – who hadn’t yet started 500Startups – and Sheryl Sandberg who was much more of a mere mortal back then). FB was becoming big but nowhere near the juggernaut it would become.

We saw several companies present and I was mostly there for the networking. One company – Samasource – presented an incredibly inspirational goal of helping people in developing countries – not by aid but by engaging them in work. It was what has now become more common – a social startup – and this one was a non-profit. I loved the idea.

I thought I would get to quietly admire the ambition of

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Phone calls. Millennials are allergic to them. I have this conversation Sofa King often that I’m sure each reader who has met me will think I’m talking specifically about you. I’m not. Well, I am. But not only you.

Email is efficient.  You can crank out asynchronous thoughts, orders, questions, commands and comments. I email often. I always follow important emails with a call. There is a reason.

Phone calls are effective. You can convey meaning and emotion. You can listen for responses. You can detect how your messages are received and pick up sarcasm, skepticism, anger, frustration, happiness and sorrow. You CANNOT do this on email. Or IM. Or text. Or Twitter. Text is often tone deaf. Mostly when it’s is short form.

Of course in-person is best for true relationship development but that’s not always practical.

A very common experience …

One person emails some thoughts. Another gets angered and responds. The true intent of both is lost and the time makes each person’s anger grow and fester. And anger leads to more email, which ends in a flame war. I have seen this time and again and of course I’m prey to it as well.

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I live in LA and fund startups. So you can imagine that I see a lot of video startups. Most will fail.

I repeat the same mantra to every one I see.

“You can’t build a large online video company. You have to build a large online tech company that distributes video.”

I try to explain this to every team I see and I’m not being flippant. What most people never understood about Maker Studios is that much of their growth came through technology innovation and advantages on our back-end the most people didn’t even know about. There’s a reason that Maker pulled away while most online video companies did not. And it’s not about aggregating traffic better.

Online technology company that distributes video.

I have seen every form of former Discovery or Nat Geo producer who has access to a few famous people with whom they will partner and create online videos. They will partner with every producer of online video software. In my mind they are building the same business as their offline counterparts just with lower CPMs and margins.

I’ve written before about

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My long-time friend Jason Lemkin is on the verge of launching a spectacular SaaS conference called SaaStr this week. What Jason has achieved in no time flat in VC is astounding. Without inventing the browser he has single-handedly created a personal VC brand on a shoestring.

And as I’ve written about before – building a personal brand is extremely important in today’s competitive job market. Here’s how he did it.

Oh, but the weird trick first. Jason is a master of communications and that’s what this post is about. I recently saw him Tweet this so I thought it would be a great title for my post on his spectacular early success in building his VC profile and bona fides

I’m gonna to start all SaaStr posts with “One Weird Trick To …” from now on and see how much better they perform

— Jason M. Lemkin (@jasonlk)

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What is the role of a VC for entrepreneurs?

I suppose it can be different for every founder and for different VCs but I’d like to offer you some context on what I think it is and it isn’t. I was recently contacted by an entrepreneur who was consider a few different business models for his company. I barely know the guy (or his markets) but he wanted me to weigh in one “which market I thought he should pursue.” I responded

“I can’t tell you that one approach is surely better than the other. If I said so I’d be disingenuous.

My job isn’t to predict markets but rather to find entrepreneurs who want to create markets through insight and conviction.”

And that’s the simplest way I view my job. It’s to find great entrepreneurs who are passionate about solving a problem. They become obsessed with why the problem exists and they start chipping away at ideas for solving the problem. The develop so much conviction that they can solve it that they do the most difficult thing one can do with one’s ego. They tell the world publicly that they not only are going to solve the problem but they’re going to do it better than anybody else in the market.

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