Startup Lessons


Products I Love to Use


Posted on Jun 28, 2015 | 0 comments

Every year around the holidays journalists and bloggers around the world publish “top ten” lists or “annual buyer’s guides” or similar. And every year I think about doing the same. But it’s the holidays and I usually can’t be bothered. Plus, after reading everybody else’s list it feels pedestrian to publish mine.

So I thought now would be a sensible time – with six months on either side of the holidays. I’m not trying to say my picks are great and other products aren’t and I’ll certainly forget some. But this is just a reflection midway in June 2015 of the some of the products I love, enjoy or use frequently, and am not an investor in.

1. Twitter – Say what you want about Twitter “losing its way,” “not engaging new users well enough,” “not targeting ads well enough.” Twitter is the most fundamentally profound application I have used over the past decade. I love it. I will continue to love it. I sure hope nobody buys it. As an individual I’m just fine with its level of innovation. World leaders use it to break news. Comedians use it to hone their art. And people like me use it to tap into the tech community and get a sense of what’s going on, dive into conversations with friends or random people and build real relationships with people I’ve never or seldom met in person. Haters gonna hate. I love Twitter.

2. Uber – The second most profound application for me personally has been Uber. My life improved an order-of-magnitude on business trips when Uber came out. It used to frustrate me that I’d drive my car to the airport on the freeway, fly 30,000 feet in air in a tube and then hop into a dingy old car with somebody that looked like they hadn’t slept in 72 hours with a car that looked like it hadn’t been serviced since 1996. I lamented that this last mile was the least safe of my journey.

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Reid Hoffman (founder) and Jeff Weiner (CEO) of LinkedIn are amongst the most famous pair of founder / CEOs to buck the stereotypes that:

The only person who can take your company to it’s final destination or IPO if the founder
That the founder must leave the company if a new CEO comes on board

In fact, Reid wrote the definitive piece on the topic.

Many people don’t know that I actually became Chairman of my first company and relinquishing the CEO role before the company was sold. It’s a topic I’m well versed in personally and I understand the difficult emotional decision of whether to hand the reigns to someone else of the baby you’ve struggled so hard to launch into the world. Will they treat it with the same seriousness that you did through your years of blood, sweat and tears?

Some founders make great CEOs until the end, some don’t. And some (like me) love the first 5 years, first $30-50 million in revenue, leading the first 150 employees but don’t love the role after that point.

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I recently interviewed Matt Mazzeo of Lowercase Capital. By now most of you know that Chris Sacca invested in what is now thought to be one of the best performing VC funds of all time having invested an $8.4 million fund in: Uber, Instagram, Docker and Twitter, amongst others. He then went on to build perhaps the largest single shareholding in Twitter. But did you ever wonder how Matt Mazzeo, who’s in his early 30s became Chris’s partner?

In many ways I wanted to focus on Matt because to those of us in the LA Venture community Matt really has become the public face of Lowercase Capital over the past several years. He has won many over (including me) through his hustle, his relationship, his service approach to venture and the fact that he is, frankly, a very likable and humble guy.

The viewer above (big thank you to ClipMine) will allow you to skip forward to key moments by clicking on the contents tab on the left but to give you some insights on Matt.

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Crosscut Ventures has just announced their 3rd fund and clocking in at $75 million, which will be focused heavily on Los Angeles – FTW. A seed fund this size (and with increasing numbers of venture funds being raised by LA-based VC’s) has overcome a decade-long resistance and belief that you could only build great tech companies in Silicon Valley.

What you may not know is that the story of Crosscut itself is heavily correlated with that struggle for LA to have legitimacy as a national tech hub, which is now the fastest growing (and 3rd largest) in the US. Like many entrepreneurs, the founders of Crosscut quit their well-paid jobs in the belief that LA’s moment was about to arrive and they spent years on low (sometimes no) salaries to prove it.

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Business leaders have many tasks to accomplish and prioritizing stuff can be hard. Yesterday I wrote about the need to “do fewer things, more often” in which I described that frenzied world we live in and why the shiny objects and distractions stop us from living up to our true potential.

Today I’d like to give that advice in more tangible terms and with a framework to think about your tasks – the funnel.

Sales people (and website customer acquisition folks) all think in terms of funnels and yet non-sales professionals seldom do. I’d like to encourage you to think about every new opportunity and every door opened as being at the “top end of your funnel” meaning something you’re working on that may or may not come to fruition. An example might be a business development conversation, a first customer meeting, the first candidate in a recruiting process, the first time you talk with a journalist at TechCrunch or the first meeting to consider your business strategy.

Having interesting and frequent opportunities at the top of your funnel matters.

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Do Less. More.


Posted on Jun 18, 2015 | 0 comments

We are experiencing a frenetic time. I rarely talk to any startup entrepreneur or VC who doesn’t feel it and somehow long for simpler times despite the benefits we all enjoy from increased enthusiasm for our sector.

For entrepreneurs there’s too much money sloshing around. One would think entrepreneurs would never want less available cash – until such time as their competitors ridiculously and unnecessarily all raise $50 million in the name of a “land grab” thus making it much harder for your totally reasonable company to attract investors.

There’s too much PR and too many tech blogs and too many newsletters and aggregators and Twitter summarizers to even try to catch everything that’s going on and equally there’s so much noise that it becomes harder to be heard.

There are so many events to attend that one could become a full time conference attendee and you could easily feel like you’re missing out with each event that happens without you and of course there is Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat to remind you just how fun it was for everybody else.

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