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Category: Advice

To Market, to Market

To Market, to Market

New years always herald prognostications from all quarters (comes with the territory) and of course 2017 is no exception. CB Insights noted that 2016 was not a good year in unicorn land & 7 Unicorns Stumbled, and that it looks grim for 2017. In fact, they noted, deals to unicorns were lower last year than in any year since 2012.

They also pointed out that a group of unicorns is called a fondle.

Before we read the tea leaves, good to look at some of the problems, including the fact that Silicon Valley doesn’t have a lot of respect for marketing, and considering that one of their very favorite mantras is ‘Fail Fast,’ well, disregarding marketing will certainly help to accomplish that, if that’s the idea: Read More...

The Top 10 Whines of 2016

The Top 10 Whines of 2016

2016 was not an easy year. It was one in which emotions ran high – to put it mildly. This considered, we decided to pay homage to some of those emotions and one thing is certain: it was definitely a vintage year for whines. While there might be a preponderance of Silicon Valley people, places and companies on the list, remember – California is known for its whines. Without further ado and in no particular order:

Elizabeth Holmes/Tim Draper: It was decidedly not a good year for tech’s first female unicorn, whose fortunes went from $4+ billion to zero. The company also left a trail of unhappy investors, but not Tim Draper, who whined about the unfair press that brought the company down. “Instead of those negative reports, he argued in ArsTechnica, people should focus on what Theranos is doing for consumers. They “love” the company, he added, despite the fact that thousands of consumers have had their blood test results—results that may have led to incorrect treatments—corrected or voided. And several consumers have filed lawsuits seeking class-action status against Theranos.” We know that Holmes idolizes Steve Jobs – who is also gone, but not forgotten.

Jack Dorsey: the CEO of Twitter and Square had a mixed year. Square is doing well, from all reports, but Twitter – not so much, with the stock price pretty much in la toilette and not a buyer in sight. One of the Golden Boys of Silicon Valley lost nearly 20% of his net worth recently, with his Twitter stock tanking, but as we always say, just because you can start a company, doesn’t necessarily mean that you can run one. Or two, at the same time, for that matter. For those unhappy shareholders who believed that wunderkind Dorsey was the exception, well, it might be just that you don’t know Jack. Read More...

The Things to Do in December Edition

The Things to Do in December Edition

Due to the holidays, no editorial this week. Do hope you enjoyed yours, and a heads up: It’s the holiday party season, a time when things supposedly slow down, but do they really?  Reminder: it’s a very good time to get out there and meet new people – some of whom may be able to introduce you to people you need to meet in order to get you to the next level – and truth be told, investors never rest. They do like to kick back, however, and enjoy this time of the year as much as anyone else, but if you see them around town or at gathering, introduce yourself, get to know them, ask if it would be all right to follow up with them after the holidays – and do – and this above all: remember that tech never really rests, either. It is always moving…onward and forward.

And the Number 1 Deal-Killer Question in Tech Is…

And the Number 1 Deal-Killer Question in Tech Is…

Full disclosure: the subject of today’s newsletter comes at the request of a number of investors, advisors and startup consultants whom we know.

We all know the old tech adage: if you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money. Some entrepreneurs genuinely do want advice, especially from a consultant, advisor or investor, which is when they reach out and ask that question that is the #1 deal killer for d) all of the aforementioned:

“Do you mind if I pick your brain?” Read More...

Yahoo, Twitter and Inside Baseball

Yahoo, Twitter and Inside Baseball

We came across this piece that we just had to share: I’m Done Pretending SF Tech Is Visionary Welcome to Silicon Valley. We’re smart enough to solve real problems, but we don’t. Again, it reminded us of Startup L. Jackson’s reference to Silicon Valley as assisted living for the young, and truth be told, we now have pause to consider if those visionaries are true visionaries, considering that a number of the so-called visionaries have been having quite a few problems lately. For example, no one seems to want to buy Twitter, despite the fact that visionary CEO Jack Dorsey is back at the helm.

To wit,  “It’s been a banner year for corporate scandals in Silicon Valley and beyond,” writes General Catalyst Managing Director Phil Libin, (Rate company scandals with this handy five-point system.) “but until today there hasn’t been a crisp way to categorize them. Are all scandals the same? Hardly! When you’re experiencing these problems from inside a company, everything feels like the end of the world. Sometimes it’s not. For your convenience, and to put things in perspective, I hereby present my five-point scale for company scandals.” Of course, Theranos and Zenefits come to mind, and let’s not forget Yahoo! and Marissa Mayer’s failure to tell users – for two years – that their information had been compromised. Half a billion of them, to be a bit more exact, but when there’s money on the table, ah, details. Or maybe not, considering the fact that Verizon walked – so far – on the acquisition.

What should Twitter do to survive and thrive? For one, visionary Dorsey might want to try showing some vision. Twitter, you’re a publishing platform. So, why aren’t you a publisher? You might also want to consider rethinking the censorship of writers and articles that aren’t lockstep with the Silicon Valley talking points, or you will lose part of your audience, which is already happening (How a GIF of Aly Raisman’s Floor Routine Got Me Permanently Banned From Twitter Update: After this story picked up enough steam, my permanent Twitter suspension was coincidentally lifted. Funny how that works) “It’s disappointing that Twitter will throw users under the bus to do it by permanently banning the very users that built Twitter into the vibrant community it is today,” writes Jim Weber. “It’s even more frustrating that I didn’t have a single human interaction but was delivered form letters determining my fate — likely sent from somewhere halfway around the world… Not only do I not plan to start a new Twitter account, I’m hesitant to post anything to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat with the knowledge that they can and will permanently shut down your account with the snap of their fingers. As idealistic as social media platforms make themselves sound, at the end of the day, they’re just like every other business: They only thing they have to answer to is money.” Read More...

Trust, Transparency and Totalitarianism

Trust, Transparency and Totalitarianism

Don’t look at us: Mark Zuckerberg started it.

Last week, The Guardian published a piece entitled Facebook and Google: most powerful and secretive empires we’ve ever known, and, considering the power and reach of the platforms, they’re not merely tech companies: more accurately, they are perhaps two of the most powerful nation-states in the world at the moment and given how ubiquitous they are in our lives, they arguably wield more power/have a larger reach than any corporation or government that the world has seen, to date. As Ellen P. Goodman and Julia Powles state in the piece, “We call them platforms, networks or gatekeepers. But these labels hardly fit. The appropriate metaphor eludes us; even if we describe them as vast empires, they are unlike any we’ve ever known. Far from being discrete points of departure, merely supporting the action or minding the gates, they have become something much more significant. They have become the medium through which we experience and understand the world.

“As their users, we are like the blinkered young fish in the parable memorably retold by David Foster Wallace. When asked, “How’s the water?” we swipe blank: “What the hell is water?” Read More...

The Onward and Forward Edition

The Onward and Forward Edition

It’s September and everyone’s back, meaning that it’s time to get back to it.

As if…

Welcome back and as we said, no editorial this week, although, two things: Read More...

And the Silver Goes To…

And the Silver Goes To…

It’s August. The Olympics are on. Why not?

Americans – and tech entrepreneurs, in particular – are conditioned to always go for the gold in the winner-take-all world of tech, but there were two exits lately – both on the East Coast – where tech companies were acquired by corporates for $1 billion or more: Unilever’s acquisition of Dollar Shave Club, and Wal-Mart’s picking up Jet.com for $3.3 billion to challenge/defend itself against Amazon.

For the record, Unilever was also the fourth non-tech acquirer to buy a venture-backed U.S. company for $1 billion or more in the year, according to CB Insights data.  CB Insights goes on to say that “that’s compared to 2014 when tech giants including Facebook, Google, and Oracle made up five of the six acquirers of U.S. venture-backed companies for $1B or more.” Read More...

Things To Do in August When It’s Dead

Things To Do in August When It’s Dead

There is a movie called “Things To Do in Denver When You’re Dead and we just couldn’t resist.

It’s nearing the end of summer. Things tend to slow down. The investors traditionally unplug this time of year. What’s an entrepreneur to do?

Carpe diem. Unlike in other years, quite a few investors have mentioned lately – either while speaking on panels or to us personally, that they’re not unplugging for the month (or most of it), as they often do, or at least seem to do. And because they’re around and most people believe that they’re not, guess what? They’re available. Just make sure to use your time – and theirs –wisely. Two points to remember: Read More...

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