What Makes an Entrepreneur? Four Letters: JFDI

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This is part of my Startup Advice series. I had a picture in the office of my first company with the logo above and the capital letters JFDI. (In In case it’s not obvious it’s a play on the Nike slogan, “Just Do It.&# ) I believe that being successful as an entrepreneur requires you to get lots of things done. You are constantly faced with decisions and there is always incomplete information. This paralyzes most people. Not you.

Are MBAs Necessary for Start-ups or VC?

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This is part of my ongoing series called “ Start-up Lessons.&#. I was reading Chris Dixon’s blog tonight. He writes with a great perspective and is well worth reading. I came across this blog post about getting a computer science degree as the best degree for getting into venture capital or working at a VC-backed start up. I had to laugh a bit reading it. I just completed an exercise where I went out to hire a new associate for my VC firm, GRP Partners.

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Is it Time for You to Earn or to Learn?

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This is part of my Startup Advice series. I often have career discussions with entrepreneurs – both young and more mature – whether they should join company “X&# or not. I usually pull the old trick of answering a question with a question. My reply is usually, “is it time for you to earn or to learn?&#. Let’s face it.

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The Case for In-Stream Advertising

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The topic of whether in-stream advertising has heated up. I just read well written pieces on the topic by Ross Kimbarovsky , Robert Scoble , Paul Carr and the NY Times. I myself recently covered the topic when I spoke about why GRP Partners invested in Ad.ly. Let me lay out my defense of In-Stream Advertising because I believe the topic is really important. People feel angst about advertising in any form – I feel the same feeling about advertising as most consumers.

Should Founders Be Allowed to Take Money off the Table?

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This is part of my ongoing series “ Start Up Advice &# but I’d really like to call this post, “VC Advice.&#. If a company has reached a level of success, has been around for a few years and you believe the company has potential to break out into a much bigger company then you should let the founders take money off of the table. It’s that simple. Only then are you truly aligned. Not FU money, but “feed the family&# money.

Is it a Good Idea to Have Ads in Tweets?

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Advertising has driven the majority of Internet innovation. My firm GRP Partners recently funded a young LA based company named Ad.Ly that is an “in-stream advertising&# company currently focused on monetizing Twitter. This has prompted many people to question whether advertising “in stream&# and on Twitter is a good thing or a bad thing. We’re clearly in the early stages on Twitter monetization but let me offer some views on why we find Ad.ly

What Makes an Entrepreneur (5/11) – Inspiration

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This is part of my new series on what makes an entrepreneur successful. I originally posted it on VentureHacks , one of my favorite websites for entrepreneurs. If you haven’t spent time over there you should. I started the series talking about what I consider the most important attribute of an entrepreneur : Tenacity. I then covered Street Smarts , Ability to Pivot and Resiliency. Several people asked about the differences between tenacity and resiliency.

What Makes an Entrepreneur (3/11) – Ability to Pivot

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This is part of my new series on what makes an entrepreneur successful. I originally posted it on VentureHacks , one of my favorite websites for entrepreneurs. If you haven’t spent time over there you should. I started the series talking about what I consider the most important attribute: Tenacity. I then covered Street Smarts.

What Makes an Entrepreneur? (1/11) – Tenacity

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This is part of my new series on what makes an entrepreneur successful. I originally posted it on VentureHacks , one of my favorite websites for entrepreneurs. If you haven’t spent time over there you should. I wanted to also post the series here to have it as a resource on my blog for future entrepreneurs who stop by.

Startup Founders Should Flip Burgers

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This is part of my ongoing series Startup Advice. This is a story of one of the risks of venture capital. When you’re an early-stage startup that hasn’t raised any institutional money you end up doing almost every job function of the company yourself. But some companies have entrepreneurs that seem talented on paper, are in a space that seems interesting to investors and are able to raise venture capital early in the company’s existence.

The Big VC Thaw – Why The Market is Moving Again (part 2 of 3)

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In my previous post, The VC Ice Age is Thawing (for now) I wrote about the reasons why the VC market came to a screeching halt in September 2008 and remained largely shut until at least April 2009. As of near the end of September 2009, we’re up 46% since the March 9th nadir (yes, I need to find a way to use one of my SAT words ; – ).

Good Judgment Comes with Experience, But Experience Comes from Bad Judgment

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This is part of my Startup Advice series of posts. I heard Bruce Dunlevie of Benchmark Capital say these words at a conference in London nearly 10 years ago. I jotted the words down (I normally pay little attention to anything said at conferences. Most of it is BS) and thought about them much over the years. I later learned that the quote was taken from somewhere else ( perhaps as early as the 13th century! ) but whoever is responsible I just want to help spread it.

Choose Your VC Investor Carefully

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Beware of VC Seagulls, who shit on you and then fly away (or worse yet leave you with Red Herrings). This is part of my ongoing series Startup Advice. I write this post as a warning to pick your VC’s carefully. I like to say to first-time entrepreneurs, picking a VC is more permanent than marriage. If you pick the wrong spouse at least you can get divorced.

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Protect Your Parents from Avis Budget: Direct Marketing Scumbags

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This has been a year where people got mad in mass at financial institutions. It’s hard not to when you think about the amount of money that flowed into their coffers and the size of expected bonuses this year – of all years. Frankly, it disgusts me. But I’m not one to take on the big investment banks – I’ll save that for somebody else.

Start-ups are all Naked in the Mirror

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This is part of my ongoing series Startup Lessons. Building companies is hard work. I started my first company in 1999 in London at the height of the dot com craze. We also had facilities in Dublin, Ireland where our company was initially founded. We went through the euphoria of massive exposure at the time of our launch due to an article that ran in the Financial Times. We were unprepared. Our software wasn’t fully baked.

Who Should you Hire at a Startup?

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Only Hire A+ People Who Punch Above Their Weight Class. This is part of my ongoing posts on Startup Advice. There are people who tell startups that they should hire the most senior people that they can find. I’m not one of those. I believe that you should always hire people are are looking to “punch above their weight class,&# which means to hire people who want to be one league above where they are today. Don’t confuse this with the quality of the individual.

Retro: My Favorite Blog Post on Raising VC

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On December 2nd, 2006 I wrote the blog post published later in this post when I was CEO of startup Koral about my experiences in pitching VCs. After my company was acquired by Salesforce.com I was asked to stop blogging and they took over my blog as an asset in the sale of the company. My blog was wiped out. I am very grateful to my friend Zoli Erdos for finding this retro posting for me at web.archive.org.

First Round Funding Terms and Founder Vesting

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This is part of my ongoing series “ Pitching a VC “ There’s a great meme developing this morning on the need to simplify funding terms and documents. The meme was kicked off by Chris Dixon with this post saying that term sheets need to be simplified and align investor / founder interests. That prompted Fred Wilson’s blog post appealing to the industry to make these simplified term sheets standard.

3 Sales Tips for Startups – Creating a Burning Platform

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This is part of my ongoing series Startup Advice. Many entrepreneurs who start technology companies are product people, technologists or savvy business people who worked previously for a larger company. Most start-up entrepreneurs have little or no sales experience. I know I didn’t. But through nearly a decade of startups I learned that sales comes down to three essential elements: 1. Why Buy Anything? This is the easiest one for most entrepreneurs.

What Makes an Entrepreneur (2/10) – Street Smarts

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This is part of my new series on what makes an entrepreneur successful. I originally posted it on VentureHacks , one of my favorite websites for entrepreneurs. If you haven’t spent time over there you should. I started the series talking about what I consider the most important attribute: Tenacity. Street Smarts - OK, so you’re a tenacious person – you never give up. Well obviously that’s meaningless if your startup idea sucks.

WTF is Traction? A 6-Step Relationship Guide to VC

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This is part of my ongoing series “Pitching a VC&# – the outline is here. You’ve pitched several angels and VC’s. Everybody seems to like you but nobody seems to be getting out their checkbooks. Most of them are telling you that they just need to see a bit of traction before they’d be prepared to invest. Your friends and advisers tell you that this means you need revenue because in this economy VC’s will only fund businesses with revenue.

The Great VC Ice Age is Thawing (for now) – Part 1 of 3

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I would argue that the shut-down of September 2009 was equally severe yet there are signs that this “VC Ice Age” has begun to thaw. It helped me avoid chasing deals (and a house) in 2007/08 and it led to GRP’s fastest pace of investment in many years in the first three quarters of 2009 at a time when many others weren’t investing. Bu when you start to worry that the world is ending (as it seemed it was in late 2008 / early 2009) you tend to get worried about large burn rates.

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Should Your Startup Have an Advisory Board?

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This is part of my ongoing series Startup Advice. Many startup companies hire advisory boards. It’s very tempting. It’s mostly done by first-time entrepreneurs who want to persuade (bribe?) prominent industry luminaries to be closely associated with the company. It’s done partly in hopes of gaining their wisdom but it’s also done to portray the company in a positive light through association. So do advisory boards really add value?

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What Makes an Entrepreneur (4/11) – Resiliency

Both Sides of the Table

This is part of my new series on what makes an entrepreneur successful. I originally posted it on VentureHacks , one of my favorite websites for entrepreneurs. If you haven’t spent time over there you should. I started the series talking about what I consider the most important attribute: Tenacity. I then covered Street Smarts and Ability to Pivot.

Angel Funding Advice

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Most Venture Capital “A&# rounds (as of 2009) seem to start around $3 million pre-money and may go as high as $5-6 million pre-money if you’ve made a lot more progress or for some other reason the deal is “hot&#. This is part of my ongoing series Pitching a VC.

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What Makes an Entrepreneur? Perspiration (6/11)

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This is part of my new series on what makes an entrepreneur successful. I originally posted it on VentureHacks , one of my favorite websites for entrepreneurs. If you haven’t spent time over there you should. I started the series talking about what I consider the most important attribute of an entrepreneur : Tenacity. I then covered Street Smarts , Ability to Pivot , Resiliency and Inspiration. Lucas Daily made the comment: I’m a little disappointed.

Good Times Ahead for VC-backed Tech Companies?

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2009 has been the worst year for M&A in a decade. Projected IPOs for 2009 are an embarrassing 10 total deals, down from 86 just 2 years ago (it was 265 in the go-go years of 99-00) but at least up from 6 in 2008. Montgomery & Co Projects Deal Volume to Grow by 167% in Just 2 Years with No End to Growth in Sight.

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Hiring at a Startup? Know Thy Weaknesses

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This is part of my ongoing series on Startup Advice. I was reading one of my favorite websites for entrepreneurs, VentureHacks, this weekend and noticed that they are running a long piece on how to pick a co-founder. If you’ve read my blog for a while you’ll know that I’m a fan of starting businesses in a non-traditional way. I recommend that you start a company by yourself and own 100% of it.

Deal with Your Elephant in the Room

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This is part of my series on Raising Venture Capital. There’s an old saying that if I’m talking with you and I start the conversation by saying, “whatever you do, DO NOT think about Elephants &# then you can’t help but thinking about elephants while we’re speaking. It’s called “The Elephant in the Room&# and there’s a lot of truth in this adage. I sometimes call these White Elephants.

Is Strategic Money an Oxymoron?

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This is part of my ongoing Raising Venture Capital (VC) series. Yesterday I had lunch with a really interesting and capable serial entrepreneur who is raising his A round. The topic of &# strategic&# investors came up. It felt like Groundhog Day because I have this conversation again and again – literally dozens of times each year. And I had 2 “strategic&# investors in my first company.

Comments are the New Black

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I’ve been thinking a lot about comments lately. I recently wrote a post about how to get access to people at conferences and how to connect with people on social networks. These posts encouraged groups of people to provide their thoughts on these topics. As usual we began a dialog with lots of people sharing their points of view.

Did Twitter Kill the Blogger Star?

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So with the metoric rise of Twitter now forecast at 45 million as of August 3rd, 2009 (and rising fast), has Twitter Killed the Blogger Star? Here’s my view: - When Twitter started gaining hyper traction in early 2009 many people signed up and/or returned to use it again having had failed attempts at getting excited by Twitter in 2007 (I am in the latter category). When Twitter first became popular with niche crowds in 2007 it seemed to take hold initially with bloggers.

The Best VC Meetings are Debates not Sales

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This is part of my blog series “ Pitching a VC.&#. I’ve sat through a lot of VC pitches and having been CEO of an enterprise software firm for many years I’ve also sat through many customer meetings with sales teams. There is one classic mistake that I see across both types of meetings – “the tell & sell&# presentation.

VC Seed Funding is Dead, Long Live VC Seed Funding!

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This is part of my ongoing series about Raising Venture Capital. This posting was inspired by an email from Rajat Suri who wrote me an email in response to Chris Dixon’s blog post (link below) from August, which recently re-ran on Business Insider and has generated much Twitter chatter. A few years ago it became fashionable for large VC’s to do seed funding.

Founders, Ownership and Prenuptials

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This is part of my ongoing series, “ Startup Lessons.&#. Yesterday I wrote a blog post ( here ) in which I urged people to not have too many founders. Best case scenario in my mind is just 1, but at most I recommend 2. I knew this topic would be controversial because when I tell people this in person it always elicits shock. To be clear – it is not about being stingy with or hoarding equity – it is about having a prenuptial agreement.

A Tale of Two Pitches

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This is part of my ongoing series, “ Pitching a VC.&#. I recently wrote a blog post here in which I argued that the best VC meetings are discussions and not sales pitches. Many people agreed and added that even the best sales meetings are also discussions and not pitches. A few weeks ago I sat through two very contrasting presentations and wrote this blog post right afterward. I’m just getting around to posting now. Both presenters are anonymized.

What We Must Learn from Asia

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I run a monthly meeting called the VCA that represents the majority of Southern California venture capital firms. My goal is to bring in informative speakers who stretch our collectively thinking on topics that will influence our investment strategies and use it as a way for us to share our experiences in ways that I hope benefit the Southern California technology ecosystem.