Blog

Interviews (15)

LSVP

In this post Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is doing an interview with Jeremy Liew, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners

He was named twice in Forbes’ Midas List.

Jeremy’s investments include Snapchat, LivingSocial, Bonobos, Kixeye, PetFlow, Slice, ShoeDazzle and The Honest Company. He was also responsible for several Lightspeed investments which have had successful exits including Playdom (acquired by Disney), Flixster (acquired by Warner Brothers), Kongregate (acquired by GameStop) and Serious Business (acquired by Zynga).

To follow Jeremy’s timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

 

INTERVIEW:

What are the most important traits an entrepreneur needs to have?

1. A deep understanding of her customer, their problems and their needs

2. An infectious passion for her company and product

3. A maniacal desire to win

4. Some extraordinary talent that is core to the success of her company

What are 3 things people don’t know about you?

1. I used to be a hooker. Of the rugby variety.

2. I eloped.

3. Sometimes I try to do Math Olympiad problems for fun since I was on the Australian team for the International Maths Olympiad in high school. Either I've gotten dumber since then or the problems have gotten harder though, as I don't have much success with these any more.

What was your first job? What did you learn from it?

I worked at McKinsey & Co, the consulting firm, as my first job out of college. It was a tremendous business grounding for me as I had no exposure to the business world at all from my undergrad degrees in mathematics and linguisitics. I learned everything from how to break down a business problem to its key drivers to how to build a spreadsheet to how to communicate effectively. It was terrific for me.

What sparks your immediate interest when listening to a pitch? Why?

Evidence of real customer or user engagement. I've got a pretty good sense for what average user engagement looks like across many different categories, from e-commerce to games to mobile apps to social media. If you're showing engagement that is a couple of standard deviations better than the mean, then you've got something interesting. Whether it is going to be a valuable company or not depends on a whole host of other factors, from market size to competitive landscape to team, but you've definitely got my attention.

What would you consider the biggest mistake you've ever made?

One of the biggest professional mistakes I made was not to hustle harder after Yelp. I had spent a bunch of time with the CEO, had built what I thought was a good rapport, and demonstrated some good product intuition and some relevant experience from my time at CitySearch. I wrote a termsheet and then left to attend a friends wedding over a long weekend. Over the course of the weekend the Benchmark guys really hustled and won the deal. It was a mistake I won't make again. When I find a company and an entrepreneur as compelling as I found Yelp and Jeremy Stoppelman, I won't be outhustled again. I may not win all those deals (after all, Peter Fenton and Benchmark are great investors), but it won't be because I didn't try hard enough.

What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Let go of the wheel. I came into venture capital from an operating background, and it was hard for me to let go of the wheel and let the entrepreneur drive. If I saw something wrong, I wanted to jump in and help fix it. But I learned over time and with help from my partners that ultimately the CEO has responsibility for the company. We can support him and give him guidance, but we can't do his job for him. If he lets you take over, that's a bad sign too! Ultimately a CEO needs to make his own mistakes and learn from them, and become a better leader for it.

What was your first deal as a VC and what did you learned from it?

My first investment was in a company called  Santa.com when I was still at IAC. The company was building gift registries based on the letters to Santa concept in 1999. It was a great idea, but the problem is that Christmas only comes once a year. That meant that any product iteration took at least a year, and that was too slow. I learned the importance for short product cycle times so that a company can quickly learn and improve its product to get product-market fit.

What was your smartest career move?

Following great people. When I was early in my career I didn't really know what I wanted to do when I grew up. But I had had a great boss at McKinsey, a guy called Charles Conn, who ended up leaving the Firm to start CitySearch. At that time I didn't know anything about the internet, or about selling to local businesses. Plus CitySearch was in LA and I was living in South Africa at the time. But I took a leap of faith and joined CitySearch as well. Great people create upward volatility, and if you're young and smart, sometimes you can get caught in that slipstream and pulled along upwards as well. That happened to me with Charles Conn, and again with Dara Khosrowshahi (now CEO of Expedia) and Jon Miller (ex CEO of AOL and head of Digital at Newscorp) which led to my jobs at IAC and AOL. When you spot greatness, in any field, it's good to hang around it.

Where do you like to go on vacation?

I like to travel in the developing world. It can be incredibly cheap if your'e willing to backpack and stay in hostels most of the time, and save your money for special memories. Some of my favorite moments include cresting the last rise on the Inca Trail and finally seeing Machu Picchu, flying in a hot air balloon over the alien landscapes of Capadocia and watching a cheetah and its cub kill and eat an impala in South Africa. But now that I have two small kids, I don't get to do that any more. I'm more likely to found splashy around by a kiddy pool these days, at least until they are a bit older.

What was the fastest deal you’ve ever done?

Earlier last month, I found out about a fast growing smartphone app on Monday, met them on Wednesday, had another partner meet them on Thursday, gave them a termsheet on Friday, shook hands on a deal on Saturday and got the termsheet finally signed on the following Tuesday, 8 days from having found out about the company. We aim to close within two weeks of the termsheet being signed. This is extremely unusual for us, but we were primed to understand what the company is doing and why it is being so successful because we had been looking at the broader space already. We had a thesis for what would work, and we recognized it in this company. And their growth, retention and engagement metrics were off the charts. When we met this company we were able to lay out our thinking and the founders were attracted to our deep understanding of the space and our product intuition. The fact that we could explain their business to them before they told us anything gave them great comfort that we saw the world in similar ways.

***

Read more…

 

In this post Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is doing an interview with Rick Thompson, VC at Signia Ventures. He was co-founder at Playdom, sold to Disney for $763M and Funzio, sold to Gree for $210M.

Rick co-founded and served as CEO and / Chairman of two successful Internet technology companies, Adify and FlyCast Communications.

Rick holds a BS in Psychology from UCSC and an MBA from the Wharton School. He enjoys football and playing poker.

Signia Venture Partners

To follow Rick’s timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com


INTERVIEW:

What was your first job? 

I was a janitor in high school. My girlfriend dumped me when I was 16 years old, so I decided to get a job to forget about the breakup. Every evening I was driving 45 minutes each way to get the job done. It did not take me too long to figure out that the job did not pay enough to cover my gas.

My second job was also a janitor at a convalescent center. I learned a lot of soft skills there, especially communication and empathy.

Tell me a few things that people don’t know about you

I went to 6 undergraduate schools and have 7 majors, including philosophy, politics, and psychology. I guess I have always been afraid of being labeled or being stuck.

In college I worked as an intern for IBM. I would hitchhike to work from Santa Cruz, then go to school at night.

I used to play poker for cars. In 2 years I earned 13 pink slips, so every other month I was driving around Santa Cruz in a different car.

I played 4 years at the World’s Series of Poker (WSOP).

What was your life defining moment?

Meeting Peter Olson, founder of Octel (sold to Lucent for $2 billion in 1997). I’ve met him over a game of poker and he told me that poker players make good computer programmers. He gave me a homework assignment and in 2 weeks I was a programmer at Octel. That encounter changed my life forever.

What was your biggest mistake?

We sold Flycast to CMGI for $740M in 1999. When the dot com bust came in 2000-2001 we had an opportunity to buy it back for $1M but we did not. It was a good business. We could have revived Flycast and sell it all over again.

What inspired you to become a VC?

As a child I’ve always dreamt of becoming a missionary or professional gambler. A VC is a combination of both.

***

Read more…

 

In this post Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is doing an interview with Randy Williams, Founder and CEO of the Keiretsu Forum, a network of 1000+ accredited investors organized in 26 chapters on 3 continents.

keiretsu-forum

To follow Randy’s timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

INTERVIEW:

If any of your children decided to become an angel investor, what is the first piece of advice you’d give them?

Go slowly. Don’t rush. Learn about the industry first. Invest in an area you know something about and help the company grow with resources and TLC.

What advice would you give to a first time entrepreneur?

Never give up! Be malleable, learn from your mistakes.

Give me 3 things people don’t know about you.

-          I hold the Alcatraz swim record since 1993

-          I love plants and nature, so I created an Ethnobotany class at UC Berkeley

-          I’ve been swimming every day for the last 30 years

What was your first job? What did you learn from it?

I have been working every summer from an early age. I delivered papers, coached swimming, washed dishes at the cafeteria, I was a lifeguard, you name it. I’ve learned that good work ethic will take you a long way.

What companies did you pass on and later regretted it?

Clarisonic. They recently returned a 13x on our original member investment. I knew I passed on a great company when my wife asked for a Clarisonic brush.

What is an immediate turnoff in a pitch? Why?

I bet on the jockey, so someone who comes in with a big ego, is not receptive, coachable or flexible, will never get a second meeting with me. Also, if you don’t have some sort of skin in the game, it does not inspire me to invest in your company.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love nature and being outside, so golfing, hiking and swimming are several of my favorite activities.

Where do you like to go on vacation?

I love water, so our family vacations are mostly in Hawaii and Lake Tahoe.

What is a perfect day for you?

A perfect day is when I can have a nice, engaging conversation with a Keiretsu Forum member or a potential member. We have over 1000 members organized in 26 chapters on 3 continents. I walked with almost all members at least once.

What are the values the Keiretsu Forum lives by?

Engagement and participation. Our members enjoy getting involved and helping the companies we invest in. Most members have had successful careers and now they want to give back by helping others succeed.

***

Read more…

In this post Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is doing an interview with Gary Swart, VC at Polaris Ventures ($450M invested) and former CEO at oDesk (currrently Upwork - after the merger with Elance).

To follow Gary’s timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com


INTERVIEW:

What are the most important traits of a successful CEO? 

There are so many, it’s hard to narrow the list to the most important…which is actually one of the traits. Good CEOs have the ability to focus on the right priorities, and to spend time on the 20% of initiatives that yield 80% of the results.

A successful CEO also knows their strengths and weaknesses and is good at surrounding themselves with people who complement their skills. Additionally, successful CEOs are perceptive and execution-oriented, and also have a bias towards action, strong organizational skills, great communication skills, confidence and charisma.

3 things people don’t know about you 

  • When I graduated college, I went into manufacturing of precision metal products. After a couple years, I took a step back to look at what my career path would be if I stayed on that track, and realized the growth prospects for the manufacturing industry did not look good. I decided I needed to get into a growth industry, like high-tech. My wife and I put our house on the market, then packed up and moved from the East Coast to Silicon Valley, where I started working at Pure Software.
  • Despite being in technology for 20 years, I do not have a technical background. I have learned enough to be dangerous…mostly to myself!
  • I have 4 kids, which keeps me pretty busy outside the office.


How would you define leadership?

Leadership is getting a group of people together to achieve a common goal. Effective leaders build great teams and then create environments where these people can do their best. A good leader effectively guides others and, as a result, will naturally have followers. 

Do you have a career opportunity you passed on and later regretted it?

I had the opportunity to be an early team member at Netflix. The company I worked for at the time, PureAtria, had just been acquired and I was offered a key role at the acquiring company, Rational Software. The role at Rational offered me everything I was interested in at that time, including the opportunity to make an impact, the potential for professional growth and development, good financial rewards, and work-life balance. I did not have a compelling reason to trade that for a high-risk opportunity.

With the benefit of hindsight, I regret not making that move; I think Netflix could have fulfilled all of those requirements, as well as broadened my experience.

What are 3 most important contributing factors to oDesk’s success? 

The three most important contributing factors to our success are the team, the strategy, and the business model. Of course you also need a large (and growing) market and the money to execute in the first place, but it’s how you execute that makes the difference between success and failure.

First of all, there’s strategy — which I define as prioritizing what you work on to achieve the desired results. It’s important to identify and communicate the right priorities before doing anything else, in order to focus the team in the right direction.

oDesk’s strategy is simple: Connecting the world’s best freelancers with the world’s best clients, and giving them the tools and infrastructure they need to work together successfully via the Internet. oDesk has amassed the most liquidity of jobs and freelancers, and is now the world’s largest online workplace — more than 550,000 clients and 3 million freelancers are registered on the site, and more than $360 million in work was billed through oDesk in 2012 alone.

The second factor is our business model. From the beginning, we set out to best replicate in the online world the way work happens in the offline world. In the offline world, people are hired and fired based on their results, but are paid for their time. oDesk built functionality that provides the best way to work online, with guaranteed work for clients and guaranteed payment for contractors. It was this innovation that differentiated oDesk from everyone else in the market, enabling us to create the most liquidity, as described above.

The third factor contributing to our success is our team. Having a large market, a good strategy and the right business model are all important, but if you don’t have an all-star team in place—one that can not only help pick the right priorities, but also execute on them—then maintaining a competitive advantage will be difficult.

What was the tipping point in your company history? 

oDesk has always enjoyed rapid growth; we’ve seen an 8x increase in hours worked through the platform since 2009. There was a tipping point in our business when we decided to open up the network, allowing clients and freelancers to connect directly through the oDesk platform. We also lowered our fee from 30% to 10% and saw a dramatic spike in volume of jobs as well as an increase in lifetime value of clients.

We have had our fair share of lows in our business, mostly around disappointed clients, which we all hate to see. It’s important to not waste those opportunities to learn as much as you can, making you stronger the next time similar issues arise. 

What is the secret behind successfully managing people? 

The secret to successfully managing people is to get the right people on the team in the first place! In all seriousness, getting team members with the right personal characteristics, motivation, skills and knowledge is paramount to managing and leading a great team.

With that said, once your team is in place, you have to provide them with clarity as to where the company is going, as well as communicate to them what their responsibilities are and how you will measure their success. Once the clarity, responsibility and standards are in place, successful managers create team commitment by providing regular coaching for improvement and by having a good reward system in place. 

What are 3 most important metrics you constantly evaluate?

The key metrics in our business are Gross Services, which represents the total volume going through our network, Net Promoter Score as a measure of customer success, and Lifetime Value of a client. All of these metrics are important to let us know how we are doing today, while also giving us a leading indicator of how we will be doing in the future.

 

***

Read more…

In this post Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is doing an interview with Mitchell Kertzman, Managing Director at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.

Mitchell was Chairman and CEO of Liberate Technologies, PowerSoft and CEO of Sybase.

Mitchell served as President of the Massachusetts Software Council and was Chairman of the American Electronics Association.

He is founder of the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth and served on the New York State Commission on Industrial Competitiveness.

Mitchell was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He currently sits on the Boards of Five9, Flite, HubPages, NuoDB, and Palamida.

Hummer_Winblad_Venture_Partners

To follow Mitchelll’s timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

 

INTERVIEW:

What are 3 things people don’t know about you?

I’m a college dropout
I was a radio DJ in the 60s
I used to be a singer-songwriter (folk rock)

What companies did you pass on and later regretted it?

Zendesk

What does it take to get a meeting with you?

I am very open to communication. My email is listed on our website. Just send me a summary of what you do and your financial needs. I try to answer to every email I get. Just don’t send the email to everyone at the firm. And try to make it personal. Show me you did your homework.

What is an immediate turnoff in a pitch? Why?

An entrepreneur who distrusts VC starts on the wrong foot with me. If you want to be partners with us, there needs to be some level of trust coming into the relationship.

I also don’t like people with an attitude – they tend to always lose other people, whether they are team members, partners, customers, investors, etc.

I know that many VCs like to see potential acquirers in your deck. I don’t. It is good to have an exit strategy, but you need to first build a business. Your goal should be to solve a market need, not to think about a quick way out.

What would you consider the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?

I’ve spent a lot of time being a CEO, so I tend to focus heavily on P&L. One of the companies I’ve invested in had a great P&L but because I did not pay much attention to the balance sheet I did not see the trouble before it happened. As an entrepreneur you need to pay attention to all the metrics that matter, not only the ones that seem obvious to you.
Another mistake I’ve made through the years was hanging on to people for too long. If you see that someone is not a fit anymore, you owe it to the rest of your employees to cut the cord.

What would you consider to be your most significant accomplishment?

I am most proud of my family. Professional achievements pale in comparison to family.

Who is the most exciting person you’ve ever met?

I’ve met many interesting people but one of the most interesting was Barack Obama. Others that come to my mind are George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, Tom Friedman, and others.

What was your smartest career move?

After losing my job as a DJ I landed a job at an education software company as an audio visual technician. I had no exposure to computers until then. I asked my boss if I could try programming. That was the beginning of my career in tech.

Where do you like to go on vacation?

My family has a small ranch in Montana. That’s where we spend most of our vacations.

What is your investment philosophy?

We only invest in enterprise startups, looking for Series A financing. We do 3-6 investments per year.

I love startups that disrupt legacy markets. Some of the questions you should answer before pitching me are:

Are you solving hard problems?
Is it a software product?
Is your product a high priority for your customers?
Are your customers willing to pay for your solution?

***

Read more…

In this post Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is doing an interview with Bill Reichert, Founder of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage fund focused on information technology and materials science companies. He has been a board director or board observer at CaseStack, WhiteHat Security, Simply Hired, MiaSole, D.light Design, ThermoCeramix, and VisaNow, among others.

Bill earned a B.A. at Harvard and an M.B.A. from Stanford University.

He was a founding board member and a Chairman of the Churchill Club, and a Board Member of the Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs.

To follow Bill’s timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

 

INTERVIEW

Give me 3 things people don’t know about you 

My greatest athletic accomplishments were in badminton (high school champion), curling (winning skip at several junior bonspiels), and rowing (national lightweight champion boat).  I peaked early.   :-)

What was your first job? What did you learn from it?

My first real job, other than mowing lawns and painting houses, was in the mail room at the Northern Trust in downtown Chicago, the summer after my freshman year at college.  My first lesson was never underestimate the people around you.  My boss was extraordinarily smart, and also diligent, disciplined, and kind.  I also learned that you can enjoy any job, given the right environment.

What is an immediate turnoff in a pitch? Why? 

There are lots of reasons why investors pass on pitches.  Usually, the opportunity just doesn't resonate — another social music app for independent artists, or another mobile location-based app for lonely guys looking for something to do on a Thursday night.  But independent of the substance of the pitch, the fastest way to shut down an investor is to come across as an arrogant a**.  The irony is that some of the most successful entrepreneurs are indeed six sigma arrogant.  But you need to earn the right to be arrogant.  Until then, it is important to be highly confident, but aware of your flat spots and open to learning.

Who were your mentors? How did they help you become who you are?

I have been very fortunate to have had many mentors throughout my life and career.  My earliest mentor was my grandfather, Robert P. McElroy.  He was a wonderfully kind, thoughtful, creative, focused craftsman and entrepreneur.  I learned from him the importance of being disciplined and taking pride in your work.  And he modeled for me the spirit of independence.

My first business mentor was Robert Roosa,  who was a partner at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., and was a former Undersecretary of the Treasury for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.  He was a brilliant, generous man, with a great sense of humor and a razor-sharp mind.  Among many other lessons, I learned from him that you can integrate love of work, love of family, love of ideas, love of friends and love of life into who you are all the time.  It's not easy, and all too often I get off track, but I aspire to achieve what he modeled.

There are many other people I credit for their roles in mentoring me.  None probably have thought of themselves as "mentors" in an explicit sense, but that is the beauty of mentorship:  It is best and most powerful not when it is an artificial assignment, but when it is a natural relationship.

***

Read more…

In this post Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is doing an interview with Bill Draper, VC at Draper Richards.

Bill Draper is the founder of Sutter Hill Ventures and served as a government official under Ronald Reagan. His father, William Draper Jr., founded the first VC firm on the West Coast in 1959. Bill is also the founder of Draper Richards, a VC fund focused on early stage startups.

Sutter Hill’s investments include LSI Logic, Nvidia, FeedBurner, Glassdoor and Shutterfly.

Bill also published a book on startupsThe Startup Game: Inside the Partnership between Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs

Draper Richards' portfolio companies include OpenTable, Overture (sold to Yahoo), Skype and Hotmail (both sold to Microsoft).

To follow Bill's timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

 

INTERVIEW:

List 3 things people don’t know about you.

1) the only course I flunked at Yale was Accounting

2)  I asked my wife of 59 years to marry me three days after meeting her on a boat trip to Europe

3) I won a lifesaving medal for rescuing a boy from drowning when I was five.

What was your first job? What did you learn from it?

Harvesting cherries on a farm. I learned that I never wanted to do it again and that immigrant farmers that follow the crops deserve every penny they get paid.

What companies did you pass on and later regretted it?

Apple ( I sent an associate in training to investigate and should have gone myself) and Yahoo ( I was focused on starting a new venture capital company in India which did very well, but I could have done both).

Who are your business idols? Why?

Every entrepreneur who tries their best to succeed, whether they do or not. Because they are the drivers of innovation, wealth and social progress.

Who were your mentors? How did they help you become who you are?

General Georges Doriot, my professor at HBS, my father and my wife, Phyllis. They taught by example.

What do you like to do for fun?

Tennis, chess, theatre and venture capital.

If you were not a VC, what would you have been?

Probably a manager in a large company.

What were the most defining moments in your life? Why?

Watching my father struggle to pay the mortgage  during the depression  and  my fighting in Korea in 1951. I realized that survival and success depended on hard work and luck.  One should not underestimate either one.

What is an immediate turnoff in a pitch? Why?

When an entrepreneur does all the talking and never listens. Success   and an inquisitive mind go together.

What sparks your immediate interest when listening to a pitch? Why? 

Past success, eg. Phi Beta Kappa, a home run in another company.  The past is prologue.

What are the most important traits an entrepreneur needs to have?

Vision, character, drive, commitment, empathy. Even Steve Jobs had empathy: for the customer.

What non-profits do you support and why?

Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation. Because it is a hugely successful seed funder for non- profits and because I started it.

What would you consider to be your most significant accomplishment?

Sutter Hill Ventures, Draper International, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation  (hard to choose one over the other)

What is your secret talent?

Sizing up people.

Who is the most exciting person you’ve ever met? In what circumstances?

Deng Xiao Ping when I was Chair of the Export Import Bank (he freed more entrepreneurial energy than any other person in the history of man).

To follow Tim's timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

Read more…

In this post Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is doing a quick-fire interview with Ron Weissman, investor at the Band of Angels (150+ members) and VC at Apex Partners

Ron has invested in or advised more than 60 companies and has served on more than 25 Boards.  

He currently is Chairman of the Software Special Interest Group of the Band of Angels and also manages their Mentorship programs. 

To follow Ron’s timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com


INTERVIEW

What tips would you give an entrepreneur looking for funding?

- Know your market 'in your bones'

- Be pragmatic and have a realistic business plan

- Have a great partnership DNA and a passion for customer success

- Be yourself: let investors get to know the person you really are. We're going to have to work closely over many years with you, not with your public persona.

What are the most important traits an entrepreneur needs to have?

Intelligence, domain depth, decency, honesty, tolerance for risk, great sense of people, common sense, pragmatism.

What is the craziest idea someone pitched to you?

Nancy Reagan's astrologer pitched a plan for a best of breed astrology website.

A PC system designed to promote eco-awareness, with a CPU shaped like a whale and a mouse shaped like a dolphin.

What would you consider the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?

There are so many, that it is too hard to single out just one. But I'll try.

At NeXT, we were getting ready for a product launch. And in a 'Steve Jobs company', a product launch is the closest thing imaginable to a religious event. "Product Intros" at NeXT were as special to us as Witchcraft Trials were to Salem.  One of my teammates begged me to spend time with a guy in the lobby waiting to meet me. My colleague, David, said that he'd just seen something revolutionary. I was highly distracted, since "Intro" was tomorrow.

I met a shy, soft-spoken bespectacled guy, from the Swiss lab, CERN, who demoed a hypertext system running on NeXT. When you clicked on a proper noun, it took you to another document elsewhere on the network. I thought it was cool, but needed to get back to Intro planning.

I had failed to recognize the genius of Tim Berners-Lee, who was at NeXT to offer us the keys to what would become the World Wide Web.

Moral: Never be too distracted to consider a great idea.

What non-profits do you support and why?

I love excellence and the arts. So I gravitate towards organizations with those ends:

- San Franciso Opera - one of the world's best opera companies in a very complex, inherently multi-varied (poetry, music, dance, drama) art form

- San Francisco Classical Voice - the go-to community website for serious music in Northern California

- The University of Pennsylvania (where I did not go to school) Library - a center for excellence in all things related to the serious exploration of information, online and offline

What is something people will find surprising about you?

My politics. Most people would be surprised at my politics, thinking that I must be from the East Coast and from a Left-Progressive tradition. In fact, my roots are in California (my family was here before the 1906 earthquake)--and my politics couldn't be further from those of a New England progressive.

I remain an optimistic believer in the power of free people, free markets and free minds.

I champion limited government, individual autonomy and personal freedom in as many aspects of life (political, social, interpersonal, moral) as possible. I really have no interest in running your life, and expect the same courtesy from you. (And, no, I don't care who you sleep with or whom you marry).

What would you consider to be your most significant accomplishment?

My most significant accomplishment? No question: my daughter, Julia.  Nothing I've done comes close.  A brilliant, funny, well rounded person---and a gifted poet turned corporate lawyer. But, then again, I'm not sure how much of this I can take any credit for. She's pretty much done it all herself.  Maybe, at least, I contributed a small bit to her self-confidence or her sense of humor.

What is your investment philosophy?

I care about two things, above all else, assuming the basics are also there (like a great team, blah, blah, big market, blah, and the rest of the VC catechism):

A) Is this a company that matters? Are they solving a worthwhile problem? Do they do something important? Would the world be a lesser place if this company did not succeed?

B) If this IS a company that matters, does this team have and can it execute a world domination strategy? Do I believe this team and this company can become number one, two or three in their market? Only the Gold, Silver or Bronze companies get to IPO or have a big M&A outcome, or partner with market makers.  Everyone else can go home.   If you're not backing a company with world domination DNA, why bother?

What advice would you give to a first time entrepreneur?

Surround yourself with great people; build your first company by getting close to customers and really satisfying their needs; be flexible and pragmatic- avoid grand academic theories or faith-based theories of how the world or your business "must" work.

What is the hardest thing about being an angel investor/VC?

The temptation for newly minted angels is to fall in love with a company's story or product.  One has to remember not to confuse a great story with a great product, or a great product with a great business or a great business with a great investment. Too many angels, particularly those from a technical or product background 'go native' and lose perspective, once they become captivated by the story.  It is the boring stuff - the go to market plan, the unfair business advantages, the financials, the returns analysis - that often separate a good idea from a good investment.

Read more…

In this post Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is doing a quick-fire interview with Tim Draper, VC at Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ).

DFJ’s investments include Skype, FeedBurner (acquired by Google), Yammer (acquired by Microsoft), GlamMedia, Tesla, Solar City, Box, Tango, Sugar CRM, Baidu, Hotmail (acquired by Microsoft).

Tim was #52 on the list of the 100 most influential Harvard Alumni, and #7 on the Forbes Midas List, and was named Always-On #1 top venture capital deal maker.

To follow Tim's timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com


INTERVIEW:

What is something people will find surprising about you?

I foul too much and score too little, but I love playing basketball.

What is the craziest idea someone pitched to you?

A flying saucer. The guy took a photo of himself in a styrofoam mock up, and erased his legs in the photo so it looked like he was flying. But maybe it makes sense now though. We do need to challenge the airplane.

What skill you wish you had?

Teleportation. I really would like to do so much more!

What is the best lesson you’ve learned as a VC?

Life is long and entrepreneurs are heroes.

What event or life experience has had the greatest influence in shaping your life?

Birth! Ever since then it has been a fun and fascinating and passionate ride.

Who is the most exciting person you’ve ever met? In what circumstances?

So many...Barbara Bush is amazingly driven. Elon Musk is so focused. Aaron from Box gives off a real high energy. Robin Li has such a strong presence. Ted Leonsis has such charisma. Lady Gaga is such a character. George Schultz is so wise. President Yuschenko of Ukraine is a thoughtful leader. My team is full of great performers. My father is go go go. My kids constantly amaze me. And my wife gets my engine running.

What are 3 tech trends to watch in 2013?

Security in the cloud. Vergence goggles for display. Instant service like Über or Task Rabbit.

What advice did you learned from your father that served you well in life?

Make sure deals work for everyone involved.

What non-profits do you support and why?

I support entrepreneurs and education primarily. The have the biggest impact on the positive outcomes for society.

If any of your children decided to become a VC, what is the first piece of advice you’d give them?

Make sure deals work for everyone.

What would you consider to be your most significant accomplishment?

Being the creator of viral marketing. It has had such an enormous impact on the world. I am also proud of DFJ and my work for education and school choice.

Read more…

 

In this post Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is doing an interview with Tim Draper, VC at Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ).

DFJ’s investments include Skype, FeedBurner (acquired by Google), Yammer (acquired by Microsoft), GlamMedia, Tesla, Solar City, Box, Tango, Sugar CRM, Baidu, Hotmail (acquired by Microsoft).

To follow Tim's timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com


INTERVIEW:

What was your first job? What did you learn from it?

My first job was picking and selling apples from our tree. Various neighbors occasionally came by to help or hang around, and when we ran out of apples, I had made $8. My neighbors' mother decided that all eight of the kids in the neighborhood, whether they helped or not, should each get a dollar from my work. So I had to give up seven of my dollars. I learned that that was called socialism and I didn't like it.

List 3 things people don’t know about you

1. I have a regular game of hoops early in the morning in Menlo Park with some friends when I am in town, and I tend to foul too much and score too little.

2. I have a dog and a three legged cat who compete for my attention whenever I sit down at home.

3. My younger daughter, Eleanor is an amazing artist/designer.

What are your hobbies? What do you enjoy about them?

My hobby is my work. I love supporting, brainstorming with, and helping entrepreneurs. I guess I am obsessed.

What companies did you pass on and later regretted it?

I was talked out of Google, outbid on Facebook and Yahoo, and lost a note that offered for me to invest in Xilinx.

Who is your business idol? Why?

Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. They have/had such passion for their customers and their businesses that nothing else matters.

Who were your mentors? How did they help you become who you are?

My father, my mother, my wife and my children have been my best mentors. I have also learned a lot from my partners and my students. They have molded me to be a better venture capitalist, but also they keep me grounded. I tend to take flight without proper oversight.

If you were not a VC, what would you have been?

An entrepreneur. I have so many ideas for businesses though, I would not have had the pure focus I would have needed to be successful.

What were the most defining moments in your life? Why?

Every moment defines me. Every choice, every blink, every movement.

What is an immediate turnoff in a pitch? Why?

Someone who just wants to do it for the money. It is hard to keep entrepreneurial passion alive if the mission is for the money and the money doesn't come in for years.

What are the most important traits an entrepreneur needs to have?

Persistence, passion, people love, personality.

What would you consider the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?

Professionally, being outbid for Facebook.

Personally, there are several.

.

Read more…

 

In this post Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is doing a quick-fire interview with Manu Kumar, VC at K9 Ventures, a seed-stage VC fund.

The fund is focused on tech startups located in the San Francisco Bay Area that have technical founders, a core technology product, a clear path to revenue and can be capital efficient.

Manu serves as an investor and/or advisor for several technology startups including CrowdFlower, Twillio and others. 

K9 Ventures

To follow Manu's timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com


INTERVIEW:

What do you like to do for fun?

I don't believe in separating work and fun. I love what I do. It is fun for me. If it wasn't I wouldn't be doing it. So my primary fun activity is working with startups, coming up with new ideas, new products, figuring out how to build businesses.

List 3 things people don’t know about you

As a kid I built small electronic projects (burglar alarms, musical door bells, transistor radios) and then tried to sell them (successfully in some cases!) to my extended family and to family friends.

I started my first company at the age of 20, while I was on a student visa, and with a total of $5,000 to my name, that I earned from a summer internship. I spent $2,500 on a computer and had $2,500 left as "working capital".

I don't drink wine, or beer, or coffee.

If you were not a VC, what would you have been?

An entrepreneur. Although I am still an entrepreneur since starting your own fund is still like working on a startup, except it's a meta-level startup.

If your children decided to become VCs, what is the first piece of advice you’d give them?

I would hope they become entrepreneurs first. But regardless of what they do, the advice remains the same: ultimately it all comes down to one thing: "people".

What skill you wish you had?

I really wish I had the ability to do great visual design. I love good design and can tell it when I see it, but I am not good at drawing, sketching, or at doing visual aesthetics.

.

Read more…

In this post Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is doing a quick-fire interview with Ron Weissman, investor at the Band of Angels (150+ members) and VC at Apex Partners

Ron has invested in or advised more than 60 companies and has served on more than 25 Boards.  

He currently is Chairman of the Software Special Interest Group of the Band of Angels and also manages their Mentorship programs. 

To follow Ron’s timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

INTERVIEW

What sparks your immediate interest when listening to a pitch? Why?

-Customers!  Having customers or real partnerships communicates to me that someone besides the CEO's mom cares about what the company is doing and this is evidence that they're creating real value for someone. Once you have customers, you're no longer an idea, but a real company.

-What also excites me is genuine market understanding: when I learn something new from the CEO that I didn't know before. I really respect someone who communicates a business insight that teaches me something fundamental about a market or a technology.

List 3 things people don’t know about you

  1. I am an expert in European history, with a specialty in the Italian Renaissance
  2. I have been mistaken, twice, for Francis Ford Coppola
  3. I am an avid photographer


Perhaps my love of things Italian, coupled with photography helped make the Francis Ford Coppola connection.

What was your first job? What did you learn from it?

My first job was a European historian at the University of Maryland.

I learned how to translate and communicate complex ideas for a broad audience. And given an inherent multidisciplinary bent - my grad school work was in history, anthropology and quantitative methods - I learned how to learn new domains relatively quickly and I learned to work both with folks with a scientific and with a more humanistic bent.

That's one reason why I was attracted to Steve Jobs' vision that next generation computing could live at the intersection of the sciences and the humanities.

Who were your mentors? How did they help you become who you are?

- My father, Arthur Weissman, (one of Kaiser's early executives and a thought leader in health economics), was a wonderful role model (and an ideal father). He taught by example how to deal with the world compassionately and how to manage tough business and 'people' decisions creatively.  He was the most humane, caring and intelligent person I have ever met.  And I find it ironic that many years after my father's death, I am returning to the field he pioneered - health economics - as a primary investment focus.

- Hannah Holborn Gray - who recently retired as President of the University of Chicago, was a role model and fueled my interest in becoming an historian when she was a visiting professor at UC Berkeley. Working with her changed the direction of my life. Brilliant and eloquent and having take-no-prisoners standards.

- Steve Jobs - was an extremely important mentor and boss for me; was an extremely important mentor and boss; he taught me much about motivation, but even more, about having a no-compromise view of individual, product, team and company excellence.

- Paul Vais - my colleague at NeXT and, years later, my recruiting partner (since retired to become a wine maker) at my VC firm. Paul worked hard to attempt to instill practical wisdom about investing and tried (without much success) to overcome my worst instincts. A great colleague and friend and a really good mentor.

I am sure I have disappointed each of my mentors, but my failings are not their fault.

What do you like to do for fun?

Invest. Mentor. Read. Listen to Opera. Meet interesting people and shoot them (with a camera).

If you were not a VC, what would you have been?

I've had seven careers and could do lots of things. I could, obviously, have stayed in high tech or the university. But for something radically different, I might also have gone into AI or computer graphics or have become a political pundit, as I have been passionate about politics since high school.

What is an immediate turnoff in a pitch? Why?

- Arrogance

- Not understanding the VC world

- Belief that their company or product is completely unique or lacks competition

- General cluelessness about the business world

- Focusing on where the CEO went to college

- Idealistic attachment to theoretical models- "This will succeed because it has to succeed; it is just so logical that it has to work." Why do I discount idealists? The real world has a nasty way of confounding theory. Models are fine as starting points, but to rigidly adhere to them invites failure. One example of this is techno-idealism. ("This product is so great that it will sell itself. Once seen, it is irresistible!") Why? Products rarely sell themselves without awesome sales, marketing and business development.

- Any 'me-too' deal, particularly anything social/local/mobile.  Why? Overcrowded sectors -- game over. Too little market share, too much buyer confusion, too little chance of success. And in most cases, these are companies that simply don't matter. They aren't solving an important problem.

- Hipster CEOs. Why? Their arrogance is only matched by their real-world cluelessness. Great CEOs are often self-effacing rather than self-aggrandizing. And hipsters care too much about fads and 'what's hot' to focus on things of real substance.  The only folks worse than hipster CEOs are hipster VCs and hipster angels.

- Confusing a product plan with a business plan.  Why? We invest in businesses; we buy products. Investing and buying are different spheres.

Read more…

Boost logo

In this post Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is doing a quick-fire interview with Adam Draper of Boost.vc.

Adam is a 4th generation venture capitalist. His father is Tim Draper of Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

His grandfather is Bill Draper of Draper Richards, whose father, General Draper, founded the first VC firm on the West Coast.

Adam runs Boost.vc, an early stage incubator and is an investor in Path and MinoMonsters.

To follow Adam's timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

INTERVIEW:

What is an immediate turnoff in a pitch? Why?

Someone who makes assumptions about selling their product when they haven't tried yet.

What sparks your immediate interest when listening to a pitch? Why?

How passionate someone is. Generally it pulls me into their story.

List 3 things pe don’t know about you

I want to build an Iron Man suit

My favorite color is green

I don't like chocolate

What was your first job? What did you learn from it?

I was a tennis instructor for many summers. I learned a lot about giving guidance and having patience.

Who are your business idols? Why?

My dad and grandpa. They are both good with numbers, people, and try to make deals that make both sides of the table happy. Also they are awesome.

What do you like to do for fun?

Play basketball, watch movies, eat a Dutch Goose hamburger.

If you were not a VC, what would you have been?

An animal of some sort. Probably a dolphin.

What are the most important traits an entrepreneur needs to have?

Passion, determination and passion. Also you have to be crazy enough that you think you can change the world.

What is the craziest idea someone pitched to you?

Depends how you define crazy. I invested in an 18 year old who said he was going to create the greatest video game brand that has ever existed. But if you mean bad ideas, someone pitched me a sleeping chamber that had good acoustics for listening to music.

What was your first deal as a VC and what did you learned from it?

I invested in Path. I'm still learning from it, but I learned to invest in great people. That team is amazing.

What would you consider the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?

Drinking the water in Mexico.

What would you consider to be your most significant accomplishment?

Boost.

What is your secret talent?

I can read minds sometimes.

What skill you wish you had?

The ability to fly.

What advice would you give to a first time entrepreneur?

Build it, then sell it, then repeat for 10 years.

What is the hardest thing about being a VC?

You don't know if you are any good at it until 5 years down the line.

What is your favorite quote? Why?

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I have been trusted to take the game winning shot and have missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."  - Michael Jordan

Its at the bottom of every email I send. It's the very definition of being an entrepreneur.

What tips would you give an entrepreneur looking for funding?

Someone recently told me this, "If you are looking for money, ask for advice: if you are looking for advice, ask for money"

 What is your investment philosophy?

Passion + Awesome Idea + Good Team = Great Company.

Read more…

Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is interviewing Manny Fernandez, angel investor at SF Angels and founder of DreamFunded, an equity crowdfunding platform. Manny is also one of the top investors on AngelList.

To follow Manny’s timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

Read more…

Dea WilsonLifograph founder, is interviewing David Koehn, Chief Evangelist at Oracle Cloud, investor at Sand Hill Angels and founder of Batchery Accelerator.

To follow David’s timeline and see how you might be connected to him join Lifograph - The Wiki of People.

FREE signup:  http://www.lifograph.com

Read more…
RSS
Email me when there are new items in this category –

Blog Posts