Some Thoughts on Leadership Going into 2016

Both Sides of the Table

It’s a new year – 2016. 2016 is going to be a tough year. Having time to think about “leadership” at most startups feels like a luxury. It feels like something you could turn your attention to once you have tens of millions of dollars and a large staff to run operations and you could step back from it all and think about how to lead. The reality of most startups is about survival.

Did Facebook and Twitter Make Us Better or Worse in 2016?

This is going to be BIG.

It made me ask the following question: Were we better off in 2016 having Facebook and Twitter around? Sometimes we're great and sometimes we're not--but I fear that 2016 has brought out the worst in too many of us. Yesterday, I got caught up in letting my frustration over the election boil over onto Twitter, and it's definitely not the first time. I talked about it with a few people.

media 310
Insiders

Sign Up for our Newsletter

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The Full Dataset on What VCs are Thinking About Funding in 2016

Both Sides of the Table

Our last thoughts on the VC funding markets heading into 2016 was published here and I followed up with a little more context on the resetting of the venture industry , some thoughts on how startups are valued and how to think about burn rates at startups. VC survey data 2016 from Mark Suster. Every year at Upfront we try to analyze the venture markets. We try to look at the sources of capital, the valuations, exits and trends.

advice 238

What Do Industry Insiders Think Will Happen in VC in 2016?

Both Sides of the Table

Of course sentiment can swing wildly with new information but I set out to take the pulse of the market as we enter 2016. My conversations with LPs tell me that 2016 is one of their business calendars in years and unless we see an unexpected, sudden downturn expect the market size in 2016 to remain at current levels or increase. And the outlook for 2016 shows 77% of VCs expect it to take even longer in the months ahead. Upfront vc analysis 2016 from Mark Suster.

What Do LPs Think of the Venture Capital Markets for 2016?

Both Sides of the Table

Final upfront lp survey data 2016 from Mark Suster. At the Upfront Summit in early February, we had a chance to have many off-the-record conversations with Limited Partners (LPs) who fund Venture Capital (VC) funds about their views of the market.

How I Promise You One of the Most Meaningful Days of Your Life

Both Sides of the Table

I know the title “I promise you one of the most meaningful days of your life” sounds grandiose but I mean it and I hope you’ll read through to the end and choose to take one small, totally free action, that will change your life and likely those of others.

Venture Capital is About Human Capital

Both Sides of the Table

Gregg Johnson, CEO of Invoca For the first 5 years or so after I became a VC I didn’t talk much about what I thought a VC should be excellent at since frankly I wasn’t sure. I was mostly doing my job and trying to figure out how to be better every day. After a decade on the job I’ve started to speak more openly when newer industry colleagues now ask me what I’ve learned. The number one advice I give is “stop trying to be too smart”.

Why Acceptance of Failure is Critical to Startup Success

Both Sides of the Table

I talk about failure a lot because I think it can be tremendously instructive and I think that success without failure often masks underlying lessons. I even prefer to fund entrepreneurs who have experience some level of set-backs in their careers or startups because I think it brings a humility to decision-making that I find healthy.

Why I Backed a 24-Year-Old Trying to Assess Human Potential

Both Sides of the Table

Today Upfront Ventures is announcing that we’ve backed Rebecca Kantar ’s startup Imbellus , a company designed to assess human potential and ultimately change the way we teach children. We led a $4 million investment along with Thrive Capital, GLG and Sound Ventures. The news blogs will cover the what, how and how much but I want to focus on the “why” and try to be instructive of what I think makes for a great A-round startup.

Excited to be an Investor in The Wing

This is going to be BIG.

It means a lot to me to find financial opportunities investing in companies that I can be really proud of--education companies like Tinybop and Tinkergarten , or companies at the forefront of fair labor practices like Homer Logistics. There are others that haven't launched that I'm equally as proud and excited about--and now one more has launched. I'm thrilled to be an investor in The Wing --a Home Base for Women on Their Way.

How to Decrease the Odds That Your Startup Fails

Both Sides of the Table

But that’s harder to build in 2016 than it was in say 2005. Many startup businesses – tech or otherwise – fail. In our industry we applaud the efforts for entrepreneurs to have tried and we know that today’s failure can bring the experience for tomorrow’s success.

The Coming Shift in Enterprise Software

Both Sides of the Table

Today it has been announced that I’m leading a $15 million funding round in Tact , a new generation of Enterprise Software company along with other investors including Microsoft Ventures and previous investors Accel and Redpoint Rather than just waxing lyrically about how great the company is I thought I’d provide some context about why I invested and also about a fundamental change I see in the coming years in the way enterprise software is used. Why Invest?

How come VCs are. jerks?

This is going to be BIG.

That was a question posed to me by a new analyst at a venture capital fund. Admittedly, I finished this person's sentence after their long pause. but the word "jerks" was agreed to as the direction they were taking the question. While there are lots and lots of really kind, generous people working in venture capital--the recently retired Howard Morgan, Hunter Walk, Brad Feld, and Karin Klein for example--it's really tough to argue that there isn't widespread jerkery.

How to Perform Inception on a VC

This is going to be BIG.

One of my favorite phrases is "performing inception". Inception is one of my favorite movies and I love the idea of meticulously planning out the placement of an idea in someone else's head. That's basically what founders have to do when they fundraise, because you'll never be more successful with an investor who thought it was their brilliant idea to invest in your company, not yours. Remember what we learned from the movie.

media 324

Why I Don’t Celebrate Income Inequality

Both Sides of the Table

What drives economic inequality in the US? Should we be concerned about the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the many? I am not writing about this out of the blue – this seems to be the topic of the day in my social stream based on blogs written, retweets rendered and attaboys handed out. I found the conversation a bit disconcerting.

Lead, Follow or Get the F**k Out of the Way

Both Sides of the Table

Lead — It’s hard to be a real leader. Decisions are never black or white, so most people fudge. The straddle middle grounds to keep everybody happy. They make compromises to try and hold together constituencies. On business decisions they want to hedge their bets so they do a little bit of everything but nothing extremely well. As highlighted by Brad Garlinghouse years ago in the famous “ peanut butter manifesto ”— it’s like spreading peanut butter evenly over a piece of bread.

MakeSpace Raises an Additional $17.5 million and Unveils Strategy to Make Public Storage the Next Blockbuster Video

Both Sides of the Table

million in funding on TechCrunch led by Harmony Partners and Upfront Ventures to double its footprint of 3 cities (New York, Chicago & Washington DC) to 6 in 2016. MakeSpace , the leading provider of next-generation storage for consumers, today announced an additional $17.5 We raised this capital in what has increasingly become a difficult market for fund raising so I’d like to share with you some details on how we get it done. Strategy.

How Do VCs Choose Their Investors (and should entrepreneurs care?)

Both Sides of the Table

I recently read a blog post by Beezer Clarkson, Managing Director of Sapphire Ventures about why entrepreneurs should care about from whom their VC funds raise their capital. I spent a bunch of time thinking about this position — especially since Beezer is an investor in Upfront Ventures. There are a lot of things I think entrepreneurs should care about when raising from a VC: How big or small their fund is? What percentage of their fund will you be?

Why Raising Too Much Money Can Harm Your Startup

Both Sides of the Table

Amongst the most often asked questions I get from founders is, “How much money should I raise?” Reflexively founders want to raise as much money as they can because they figure it will give them more resources, better chances of competing and a longer runways before they have to do the often painful job of asking, yet again, for money. Every time you ask for money you’re faced with the possible of feeling literally and figuratively like a failure.

What Most People Don’t Understand About How Startup Companies are Valued

Both Sides of the Table

I recently survey more than 150 VC friends from all stages and geographies what they thought about the market by asking “Which of the following statements best describes your mood heading into 2016?” I wonder whether LinkedIn’s stock market plunge in January 2016 might have a similar effect (to a lesser magnitude because the underlying company is still great).

Do Androids Get Songs Stuck in Their Heads? My investment in Amper Music.

This is going to be BIG.

This weekend, Heathens by Twenty One Pilots has been stuck in my head. It has such a great sound--and I wanted to figure out what else I could listen to that sounded like it. I don't mean bands that are liked by other people who like Twenty One Pilots. I literally mean songs that sound like it. or maybe just remixed versions of it. I wanted to engage with music, but I can't, because I don't have the ability to manipulate the "source code" of the song.

Why Computer Vision Tracking the Flow of People Will be a Huge Market

Both Sides of the Table

Density laser tracking above a doorway As I’ve written before I believe Computer Vision will become a major factor as a Human-Computer Interface (1) as sensors and cameras help us make sense of our physical world. There is so much in the media about “The Internet of Things” that it has lost meaning and for many for some strange reason it became a short-hand for wearables.

Why Misunderstanding Startup Metrics Can Cost You Your Business

Both Sides of the Table

There has been a lot of public debate over the past several weeks about whether it’s a good thing to be “gross margin positive” or not and commentary always reminds me that some people at startups don’t quite understand financial metrics or even how to think about which ones are healthy. When I publicly Tweeted that all companies should be gross margin positive many people pointed out that Amazon wasn’t profitable for many years. Gross margin positive !=

Why Computer Vision Has Become a Major Investment Theme for Me

Both Sides of the Table

Computer Vison Startup Nanit If you follow me on Snapchat ( msuster ) you might already know that I’ve been looking at and investing in a number of companies in the computer vision space. My thesis is that it will become a major I/O computing metaphor or as this field is sometimes referred to HCI ( human-computer interaction ). Today I am so excited to announce our latest investment in the category —  Nanit  — which is a smart baby monitor.

The Long Economic Case for Snapchat

Both Sides of the Table

Yesterday I wrote a primer on how to use Snapchat for my peer group of “over 30” people who don’t yet “get” Snapchat. Today I want to talk briefly about why I believe Snapchat is an important media company.

media 215

Why You Should Put Yourself Out There and Try New Products

Both Sides of the Table

In 2016 I finally cracked SnapChat with the launch of Discovery. David Tirazona (@TirazonaD) March 7, 2016. In 2006 I started using Facebook and most of my friends & colleagues thought I was strange. They thought it was like MySpace and why did I need a MySpace page? In 2007 I started using Twitter and most of my friends & colleagues wondered why people would care what I ate for lunch. In 2008 I started VC blogging. I had blogged when I was an entrepreneur.

Spotting, Nurturing and Mentoring Talent – The Power of Troy Carter

Both Sides of the Table

I recently sat down with Troy Carter to talk about what he does and why he believes it is applicable to venture capital. The “what” is well known in LA circles – Troy discovered a little known young singer named Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta aka Lady Gaga and helped her launch her career. The “what” Troy Carter does also led him to be an early investor in Uber, Lyft, Dropbox, Warby Parker and several other great startups of the last era.

So What is The Right Level of Burn Rate for a Startup These Days?

Both Sides of the Table

There is much talk these days that startup valuations have decreased and may continue to do so and that the amount of time it takes to fund raise may take longer. As I have pointed out in previous posts , 91% of VCs surveyed believe prices are declining (30% believe substantially) and 77% believe that funding will take longer than it has in the past.

Half Lives. Social Media. And Snapchat Stories.

Both Sides of the Table

I’ve been online for nearly 30 years (yes, there was CompuServe and Prodigy before the www), blogging for 10 and using social media tools since the earliest days. I love to watch networks evolve, see how crowds gather and communicate and curate and share. Twitter was the most unique social sharing platform that had emerged in my experience because it unintentionally innovated on a constraint of 140 characters (initially so that it could send messages as SMS, which it self had a size constraint).

media 220

Changes in the Venture Capital Funding Environment

Both Sides of the Table

In Q3/Q4 2015 the market changed noticeably for VC funds and the market started to realize this by Q1 2016. The funding environment for tech startups is an ever shifting ground as we go through predictable shifts that go hand-in-hand with the slowing of the overall market. The most important shift I would characterize as the market moving from “high conviction” and thus strong follow-ons to “limited conviction” and lots of gamesmanship / games of chicken … at your expense.

What is it Like to Wake Up and Have the Press Ready to Torpedo Your Business?

Both Sides of the Table

In case you missed it, the press yesterday ran several stories questioning the viability of a wireless charging company I invested in… Continue reading on Both Sides of the Table

The Bad Advice Diverse Founders are Given Around Fundraising

This is going to be BIG.

I can't think of a single time when a white man came to pitch me and I told him his fundraising plans weren't aggressive enough. Yet this is a message I'm giving to women and people of color all the time. It's not that this latter group isn't aggressive enough--after all, they're ditching everything else they could to to start companies. Something else is at play.

advice 329

What to Make of Andreessen Horowitz’s Returns?

Both Sides of the Table

Rolf Winkler wrote a piece in the WSJ about A16Z’s returns in which he says they “lag behind Sequoia, Benchmark and Founders Fund.” Scott Kupor of A16Z responded with a comprehensive overview of valuation methodology in a post that while accurate feels more targeted at sophisticated Limited Partners (LPs) who invest in funds. Let me offer you an insider’s take. VCs strangely never seem to weigh in on other VC funds.

The Importance of Teams and Why the Best Leaders Cultivate Them

Both Sides of the Table

I was watching my favorite show on TV this morning – GPS (Global Public Square) with Fareed Zakaria. It is a hugely compelling show because Zakaria covers world issues that will affect all of us in ways that are accessible and with frameworks for processing disparate information. He brings knowledgable experts from varying points of view but never books anybody that engages in yelling matches.

The Resetting of the Startup Industry

Both Sides of the Table

As we noted in our survey of more than 150 VCs we know in the industry, many saw drops in Q4 valuations last year with nearly all of them projecting decreases in 2016. Much has changed in the past four months of the technology startup world and how outsiders value the business. Of course it’s too early to predict whether this is a trend or an aberration but the smartest people I know in the industry are predicting the former.

Announcing Upfront Ventures’ Newest Partner — Kobie Fuller

Both Sides of the Table

Kobie Fuller, Partner at Upfront Ventures We set out to build a venture capital firm that would not only be a beacon for the rapidly growing LA tech ecosystem but also one that would compete and collaborate nationally with the best firms in the country. To do that you need to have the most talented partners and operating staff because entrepreneurs (and venture capital funds) have choices about whom they will work with and the best deals go to the best firms.

This Article About Andy Dunn and Bonobos is the Blueprint for Founder Storytelling

This is going to be BIG.

I just read an article about Bonobos --or was it a press release. I'm not completely sure. If you've met Andy Dunn, you'll know why that's going to be a fine line for any reporter, because it's nearly impossible to have a conversation with him without getting wrapped up in a story optimized to share. And damn, does he have his story and the ability to perform inception with it down cold.