Start-ups

Starting a Company Feels Like You Are Unemployed

I have had numerous friends and family members negatively affected by the shakeout at Zenefits, so I was hesitant to write this post, but this quote from Parker Conrad, the founder of Zenefits, is a key one that I wanted to reflect upon.

“When you start a new company, it kinda feels like you’re unemployed,” Conrad told Axios shortly after his Demo Day presentation. A program like Y Combinator can motivate and bring structure to a founder’s work, he added.”

I couldn’t agree more about the unemployment bit. At the beginning, even with great co-founders, starting a company is a mental challenge and feels a lot like unemployment (save for all of the hard work you are doing). No paychecks. Sparse email traffic. No direction. Limited accountability. Total schedule flexibility. (more…)

Interesting Start-ups: Pinterest, Ness, Everlane, Shaker

A v2.0 of Ma.gnolia and Del.icio.us, Pinterest is an interesting start-up.  And judging from the number of “new follower” e-mails I get daily, it’s interesting to a lot of my friends, too.  But I’m not totally sold on this one.  Do we need another source for content curation in addition to Twitter, Facebook, RSS, LinkedIn, and traditional media websites?  For the sake of the company’s impressive list of investors, I hope I’m wrong, but nevertheless it will be interesting to see the evolution of this site along with the cadre of recently launched competitors: Canv.as, Snip.it, Svpply.com, Nuji.com and Pearltrees.com.  UI and speed to scale are going to be the keys to success in this space – and in this regard Pinterest seems to be doing a great job. (more…)

Entrepreneurship: Picking A Co-Founder

I’m sitting in my entrepreneurship class, Cases in New Ventures, taught by Professor Steven Mednick.  The first half of each class is a series of student presentations, which are little boring to be honest, but the second half of class is great.  During the second-half of each class, an entrepreneur speaks to us about their entrepreneurial journey.  Last week we heard from an entrepreneur that had a $160mm deal fall apart during the 2008 financial crisis.  This week, we heard from an entrepreneur whose partner cratered a $100mm deal.  My big takeaway this week was one key item: Pick your co-founder carefully.  Below is the advice that the entrepreneur gave us. (more…)

Venture Capital Overview: Industry Stats, Top Funds, Investment Structures, and How to Get Into the Game

Yesterday I held a session on the venture capital market for some of my Class of 2013 classmates.  Getting into VC is elusive, if not nearly impossible, so I held this session to pass along the knowledge I have acquired through my limited background with the industry.  My hope is that this information will help them get into the industry.  I thought it would be helpful to also post this information here for a broader audience.  The discussion below is intended to serve as a jumping off point for someone trying to learn more about venture capital, not a definitive guide.  Also, there are many exceptions to VC rules or “standards” (if you can call them that); so if you have information to share, please don’t be shy about adding to the discussion in the comments section. (more…)

Interesting Start-ups: Gigwalk, Bloomspot, Gogobot, Hotel Tonight

I’m back to blogging after a hiatus due to my internship. I thought a good way to kick-off the fall would be to highlight some of the interesting start-ups I’ve observed over the last few months.  So, in no particular order, here are some interesting consumer internet start-ups which are appealing for different reasons: Gigwalk, Bloomspot, Gogobot and Hotel Tonight.

Gigwalk, an app, is an interesting play on distributed mobile workforces.  As a public equity investor, there are some compelling applications for this technology in the area of market research.  I could see this being used in a manner similar to the research performed by organizations such as Grassroots Research.

Bloomspot, a site referred to as a Groupon clone by others, is interesting not because of its deals, but because of its closed loop commerce platform.  Enhanced analytics is the future of the deal space, and these guys seem to be onto something.  Apparently (more…)

My Homemade Technology Column

I follow the technology markets, a lot.  Call it passion, obsession, or just plain weird, but I find it interesting to read about the constantly changing technology landscape.  For anyone else interested in tech here’s a snapshot of my favorite websites/blogs.   Some are more news focused and others more analytical.  You might already be reading some of these sites, but hopefully you gain at least one new information source from the list below.

Note that a number of VCs don’t update their blogs often, so I would recommend using an RSS reader to stay up on those blogs (because you don’t want to have to constantly check a site that doesn’t get updated). (more…)

A Post on TechCrunch, The End Result of My Clearstone Venture Partners Internship

1 front page post on TechCrunch; 2,868 tweets; 1,957 LinkedIn shares; and over 2,000 Facebook Likes.  Not bad for three months of work.

As an intern at Clearstone Venture Partners this spring, I had the good fortune of helping William Quigley draft the presentation which underlies his recently published TechCrunch guest post titled, The Next 10 Years Will Be Great For Both Founders and VCs, an article that created quite the buzz across the social web.  William’s perspective and enthusiasm are refreshing for anyone interested in either technology entrepreneurship or venture capital.  (I hope you will give his article a read.) (more…)

Steve Blank on Start-Ups vs. Large Corporations

Here is a speech by Steve Blank, a professor at Stanford and Berkeley, and a thought leader in the start-up community.  Blank’s talk is from the Staford Graduate School of Business Entrepreneurship Week.  Below is a great quote; maybe I like it so much because it helps me cope with the one-size-fits-all solutions that I’m hearing over and over at business school…

“Everything you learn in the business school about large company management is destructive for an early-stage venture. Big idea.  It’s not kind of useful, or geez I’ll just change it.  What you’ll hear later and I’ll explain why, it’s desctructive. Good news is, in the entrepreneurial group at GSB, we teach the right things about early-stage ventures.  But they are not interchangeable.  And you’ll hear me say this throughout this talk: Large corporations execute existing business models, start-ups search for them.  The tools needed, techniques needed, and people needed for execution versus search is what we now know to be radically different.

Blank goes on to say: (more…)

Interesting Startups: GroupMe, Uber, GetJar, Top Prospect

Following up on my prior post, here are more interesting startups: GroupMe, Uber, GetJar and Top Prospect.  GroupMe, a text-based listserv, is a service that I have been longing for.  I can now replicate “reply all” e-mail communication via text — much better for real-time mass messaging of friends.

A Quote on Difficult Entrepreneurs

I came across a great quote from Donald Valentine, a founder of Sequoia Capital, via Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures.

When one of the younger partners in the firm started, Don took him aside and drew a four square quadrant. Along one axis, he put “easy to get along with” on one end and “hard to get along with” on the other end. One the other axis, he put “normal” on one end and “brilliant” on the other end.

He then said, “sometimes we make money with brilliant people who are easy to get along with, most often we make money with brilliant people who are hard to get along with, but we rarely make money with normal people who are easy to get along with.”

The entire blog post from Fred is here.