Category Archives: Startups

Hacking Culture

We held an internal demo day at CB Insights a few weeks ago where folks presesented experimental ideas they spent 3 days working on. It was as I mentioned before a highlight for me of my time working at CB Insights.  Mike on our team did a great blog post about the Pitch & Demo day and its impacts on our culture.

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Kids Just Want Venture Capital

I really like Chris Dixon’s ideas. In fact, his bowling pin strategy post is one of my favorites of all time (I know the idea is not his but I learned it by reading his blog so he gets credit in my book).

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The Grind

Fred Wilson had a great post a few days ago about The Grind vs. The Pivot.  About the grind, he writes:

The Grind is when you launch something, it fails to get product market fit, and you grind on it, week after week, month after month, year after year, until it does. Usually the entrepreneur who chooses The Grind is obsessed with the problem they are trying to solve and can’t let it go. This tenacity is often rewarded if everyone is patient enough.

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7Figures2Commas

With online communities like Hacker News or Reddit, you sometimes stumble upon a user whose commentary resonates with you.  On Hacker News, I’ve found the commentary by Patrick McKenzie (patio11) to be one example. The other person whose identity I don’t know goes by the handle 7figures2commas.  He doesn’t mince words and his comments are insightful, contrarian and sometimes incite-ful 🙂

I find myself agreeing with much of what he writes as well.
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Why Your Startup Should Go After a Small Market Opportunity

One of the things I struggled with initially at CB Insights was how to talk about our market so that people would think it was big. I’m not sure why I gave a shit about this but I did. Maybe because I wanted investors to be super interested in us or to just sound good when talking about CB Insights with other founders who always seemed so polished and chasing some massive Google’esque opportunity.

It was 100% ego driven which is never a good reason to do something.

Then, I stumbled upon Chris Dixon’s post on the bowling pin strategy, and it changed my perspective on this.

Here’s how I think about market sizing today.

If you know your market is large (because of existing comparables for example), you are good to go. You can probably stop reading this.  As Hunter Walk points out talking about the “is this a billion dollar opportunity?” question:

…sometimes they are clearly going after a marketspace that’s already defined: CRM 2.0 replacing CRM 1.0 but there are other paths to riches. Billion dollar companies often create new markets by tapping into unmet demand. Billion dollar companies can start out looking like toys.

However, if you are not sure because the market is new or if the comps are tackling the market differently than you are envisioning, it is harder to see or justify that bigger market opportunity. In my view, if you have a loose idea that it could be a big market eventually, that’s enough.

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Is It Ok to Talk Shit about Startups?

There was a lot of commentary about Fab.com last week and it’s reported sale for $15 million to PCH. When a company goes from being worth $1.2 billion on paper to just a fraction of that in less than a year and a half, it gets some buzz. A lot of it was negative and sort of reveled in Fab’s failure.

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$1 Million for 51% of Equity? Hells No

I saw this question on Quora and had to respond.   Here’s my answer.

It fits nicely into the current obsession with giving away equity it seems.

The question was:

Is it reasonable to give a seed investor 51% equity for $1M?

If you want to be an employee working for your investor, you should take this deal.

Or said another way, hells no.

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The Startup Market Is Not That Big

I get a lot of emails from folks who want to use the CB Insights API for a SaaS app to recommend investors to startups or a “game” to predict which startups will win (biggest exit).

These are 2 popular ideas I get among many others. Sometimes, often, they’re from someone just hacking on an idea for fun, but sometimes they are from people who are pursuing them full time.

I think this is a bad idea as I don’t think this is a big market. While startups and VC have outsized media influence, they remain a small “asset class”.

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Just Do One Thing Well

Jason Del Rey who writes for Re/code and who is one of the one of the more entertaining folks I follow on Twitter recently tweeted out the following about Square.

Definitely true. Square has become very good at rolling out products. But the problem was succinctly articulated by Neeraj Baid of Venmo who responded to Jason with the following:

I think Neeraj hits the nail on the head here.

I cannot think of any tech company that has been successful with a portfolio product approach. Almost all the big unicorns and even smaller winners seem to have done one thing very well and dominated that.

Online marketing is not one thing

We’ve been exploring how to become better at online marketing and looked for someone to head up our efforts here. I think in retrospect, we were looking for too much.
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