Pivoting

After a great experience at 500 Startups, I’m pivoting :) (i.e. my last day is Dec 30th)

Over the last 15 months, I’ve had the opportunity to work on several parts of the venture business.  I helped raise the $44M Fund II (sourced our largest LP), launched the NYC coworking office, led four investments, worked on 20+ other investments, helped with portfolio management, assisted in finding/screening startups for the accelerator, organized community events and also covered several geographies (NYC/Boston/Israel).

The #500strong family is a special one, truly unique, happy to say that I was part of it and hope to stay involved in some capacity.  Thanks Dave for the opportunity.

Will be taking a little bit of time off and also explore several opportunities within the startup ecosystem and will let you know in February as to which company I end up choosing to work with.  If you want to get in touch, you can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Building Trust With Your Investors

As you may know, there is tension between investors and entrepreneurs in general.  There is a long history of bad blood and poor actions on both sides that I won’t get into right now.

During my time as an investor, I have found that the easiest way for an entrepreneur who has raised money from me to build trust, is to over communicate the health/status of their company.

As a very active seed investor, we typically don’t have a lot history with the founder(s) and usually invest after a few meetings, so while there is some trust built during the investment process, you still don’t really know each other that well.   So trust (on both sides) is built over time.

If you have taken money from investors, I encourage you send monthly updates to them.  I have created an easy template to follow.  The information that I ask for (and that investors want) is something that you should be tracking and sharing within your respective organizations in any case, so it is not onerous.

The side benefit to the entrepreneur to send monthly updates is that your investors/angels will bug you less often as they already know how things are going, so it allows you more time to focus on your business and less time doing coffee meetings with all your investors.

The other benefit is that when you need to raise that bridge/extension round (which is highly likely), you have built trust with your investor(s), so you have a better shot of raising that inside round.  I have seen several situations where I don’t receive any information from an entrepreneur for six months (or more) and then they come to me saying things aren’t going well, please invest more money, that is not a good situation to be in as an entrepreneur.

List of NYC equity based accelerators

NYC accelerators:

So AngelPad (a SF based accelerator) just announced at the #premoney conference that they are expanding to NYC.  There are now 15 equity based accelerators in NYC.

  1. @angelpad
  2. @techstars
  3. @DreamitVentures
  4. @ERoundtable
  5. @bphealth
  6. @SeedStart
  7. @NYeHealth
  8. @FinTechLab
  9. @WIMAccelerator
  10. @startuphealth
  11. @EdTechAccel
  12. @SocraticLabs
  13. @founding
  14. @FinTechNY
  15. @RGAaccelerator

NYC = Customers = $

If you are SELLING a product/service, there isn’t a better place than New York.

Largest density of Fortune 500 companies is New York City.

In Manhattan alone, there are 42 Fortune 500 companies, see pic. (all of those are within 5 miles of each other)

In addition, there is a high concentration of universities, K-12 schools, hospitals, physicians, financial services firms, real estate related firms, construction projects, local retailers and there are 8.3M people.

If you can’t find customers in NYC, you won’t have a better chance in any other region.

Startups, no excuses of why you can’t close a lot of business in this town.

fortune 500 NYC

Investor Updates – Email Template

If you have raised funding from investors, you should be providing at least quarterly updates, although I much prefer monthly updates.  Here is what I want to see from Founders:

  1. Specific metrics (revenue, number of customers, downloads, MAU, DAU, KPIs, churn %, etc)
  2. Cash position, how much do you have, what is your monthly burn and how much runway do you have left
  3. If your runway is close to 6 months, I wanted to undertand what your fundraising strategy is
  4. Product updates
  5. What is going well
  6. What is NOT going well (don’t bullshit, you need to be transparent)
  7. What do you need help with (what are the action items for your investors?)
  8. Current headcount
  9. New hires
  10. Open positions
  11. Press
  12. Other

Keep it succinct, you should be able to keep it to one page in length.

Tech Education in NYC

If you have been following the activity in NYC, you have a sense of the grassroots movement of fixing the problem of the lack of tech talent in the city but also globally.

The NYC community continues to impress me on how it has taken challenges head on and does its best to address them.  Similar to other active startup communities, there is a lack of quality engineering talent in NYC.

The following NYC based organizations are DOING something to fix this problem, many of them are focused globally, not just NYC.

General Assembly - a global network of campuses for technology, business and design.

Girls Who Code - a new organization working to educate, inspire and equip 13- to 17-year-old girls with the skills and resources to pursue opportunities in technology and engineering.

Codecademy - the easiest way to learn to code. It’s interactive, fun, and you can do it with your friends.

Flatiron School - school for passionate people who want to love what they do.  Students learn how to build awesome things with code.

SkillShare - a community marketplace for classes

Turing Fellows - matches top computer science students with outstanding summer internships at leading NYC Startups

hackNY - aims to federate the next generation of hackers for the New York innovation economy

Cornell / Technion Campus - educate the next generation of leaders who will advance technology, generate cutting-edge research that addresses critical issues

Academy For Software Education - a high school that provides innovative software engineering and computer science skills and knowledge

Enstitute – 2 year apprenticeship program for people who want to get into the startup sector

Startup Institue – an eight week program to train and place professionals in the startup sector

I genuinely believe that within the next five years, NYC can leapfrog both the Bay Area and Boston when it comes to having the best software engineers.

Last Day at SVB

As a background, I joined SVB upon graduating from Santa Clara University, my first month on the job was November 2001.  For those who recall, this was a terrible time for our country, we had the stock market collapse in March/April 2000 and was followed up by the tragic events of September 11, 2001.  The Bay Area economy was in terrible shape as the market downturn impacted tech companies, which was the main driver of local jobs.

Fortunately, SVB one of few companies that was actively hiring.  Ruth Ann Haro (RIP – a wonderful Woman & Mother & SVBer) took a chance on me and that was the beginning of my great experience here.  (See the picture on left of my first business card at SVB)

As I look back at my time at SVB, WE accomplished so many things:

  • We opened offices in four global markets: India, China, UK and Israel
  • We raised millions of dollars for various non-profits, mostly recently we raised $600K for Best Buddies; the amount time, energy and money that the employees/executives contribute to non-profits is really amazing, other companies should be as active
  • One non-profit in particular that we support, BUILD, caught my attention and I volunteered there for four years. I had the chance to positively impact young students and those students also made a positive impact on my life
  • Our stock price has gone up from ~$26 to ~$60
  • Loans / Deposits grew from $1.7B / $3.2B then to $7.2B / $17.4B now
  • We were ranked by Fortune as one of the best places to work
  • Most recently, I’m proud of what our NYC office has accomplished, becoming an integral part of the tech community and doubling the number of clients (startups & VC/PE firms) that we support

There were so many colleagues that were a pleasure to work with including nine managers that I had a chance to learn from.  What really got me out of bed though, was working with innovative startups and the investors that support them.  The startup community (globally) is a special one and I can’t see myself ever leaving this ecosystem.