Startup Lessons


Everybody has a blog these days and there is much advice to be had. Many startups now go through accelerators and have mentors passing through each day with advice – usually it’s conflicting. WTF? There are bootcamps, startup classes, video interviews – the sources are now endless. What is a founder to do?

There are some smart if not somewhat cerebral bloggers I read who say that you shouldn’t take any startup advice at all because it’s too generalized to be useful to your situation. While I have some sympathy with their intent I must point out that their opinions on this are – ironically – startup advice. And not a point-of-view I particularly believe in.

So what IS one to do?

1. Triangulate
I like to use the shorthand “triangulate” to symbolize asking multiple people for their opinions to get a better perspective on the route you should take. Of course triangulation is a mathematics term that is used in sailing and other activities to help you better navigate when you don’t have your bearings. By having the measurement of some known points you can better navigate to unknown points through inference.

I triangulate in nearly every important decision I make. I tend to ask opinions on nearly every topic that I’m interested in. When I meet other VCs I’m constantly asking how they decide which investments to make, when to pass, when to do follow-on rounds, when to sell a company vs. when to go long, etc. Because I’ve asked more than 100 VCs similar questions I start to notice patterns in thinking. Some of these patterns may apply to me some may not. Some may be repeating long held conventional wisdom that is not necessarily still relevant while others might have views that sound like total heresy.

When I have well established patterns of thought the heretical views are often the most helpful because they cause me to challenge my own beliefs.

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Just back from vacation and also some work travel and want to get back to blogging so expect a few posts over the next couple weeks.

During my absence I posted a couple new episodes of Bothsides TV recently. I’ll try to get write-ups shortly but for now here is an overview of my interview with Nanea Reeves – President and COO of textPlus. I could have listened to her for hours as many of her lessons were ones I hadn’t heard before such as how she used online gaming when she was younger as a way of both teaching herself tech as well as learning to lead remote teams.

Just so you know I work directly with Nanea and her arrival last year at TextPlus as President & COO has been transformational for the company. I’m sure I would speak for the entire board and management team in asserting this. I’ll try to do a future blog post on some of my insights in watching Nanea enter the role and how the founders enabled her success.

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Last Wednesday I had coffee with an old friend and former colleague. We haven’t worked together in a while and were reminiscing about the old days. I miss the old days when we used to be locked in battle together on the issues affecting our company.

Seeing him again also reminded me of one of my first big lessons as a VC – knowing when giving in is more important than being right. So I Tweeted that the next morning:

“When the consequences of “being right” are not great enough sometimes graciousness & conceding is a better option”

Yes. Of course it’s a universal lesson and one that I’m doomed to learn over and over.

I wrote about it in this widely read post, “Be Gracious When it’s Time to Give In.

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I recently attended and presented at Dave McClure’s PreMoney conference in San Francisco. I go every year because I love events hosted & moderated by insiders involving discussions by insiders because it maximizes the amount of real discussions people have. What you’ll see if you watch the video is an unscripted and unfiltered look into how Scott Kupor & I see some of the changes and challenges of the venture industry.

tl;dr version

Scott and I agree on nearly everything: The VC structure is changing and there appears to be a bifurcation into small & large VCs with an impact on “traditionally sized” VCs. I wrote my version here and Scott wrote an excellent write-up of his views here.

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Since 2009 we’ve been in an unequivocal bull market. Venture capitalists have raised increasing amounts of money from their investors (LPs) every year. An impressive number of new VCs have been created – most of them with new seed funds. We’ve had an explosion of alternate sources of financing from crowd-sourcing, angels, accelerators, incubators, corporates, corporate incubators.  And importantly we’ve had revenue. Consumers buying through smart phones, travelers using the new, shared economy and businesses replacing old software with modern cloud-based solutions.

It has been a good run.

But it won’t last forever. It could last 6 more months or 6 more years for all I know. But the economy grows in cycles and always has: Expansion & contraction. For what ever reason we’re wired to have amnesia during the run up and prescient memories of how we ‘knew it all along’ as soon as the slide begins. I do believe that we are in structural change where technology will increasingly play a bigger role in all facets of life so the long run up for tech is promising through all of these cycles. Once you understand both sides of the cycle you start to recognize signs of behavior during each phase.

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By now almost everybody knows that Marc Andreessen has taken Twitter by storm. By Tweetstorm, that is. Marc seems to single handedly have changed all conventions in Tweeting by dropping 7-10 rapid Tweets in a related stream-of-consciousness labeling each Tweet with a number and a slash before it.

Fred Wilson wrote a Tweetstorm and then did a blog post on the topic. I’ll address his questions at the end of this post.

While Fred’s post makes sense, I honestly think Tweetstorming isn’t Marc’s real magic on Twitter. So I’d like to weigh in with what I believe is.

Background

Marc Andreessen was a prolific and much read blogger for a brief period of time. People religiously read, shared and pontificated on his work. This was pre social media. And then out of nowhere he abruptly stopped. And from there Ben Horowitz became the amazing blogger of record at a16z. Of course they then added Chris Dixon, Ben Evans and many other great public voices.

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