Brad Feld just gave me a shout out in his fine blog and I was touched because he has always been an inspiration to me. In the early days, there were a handful of folks who got me really excited about blogging to bring transparency to the voodoo that we do. There are too many people to acknowledge, but a few stand out: Josh Kopelman with his razor sharp insights was my first inspiration, David Hornik was saying some really thoughtful stuff with a really distinctive voice, Paul Kedrosky was using data in some really interesting ways, and Brad was bringing a real authenticity, in addition to intelligence, to his writing.
Indeed, authenticity became one of my critical evaluation factors during those heady days a decade ago. After all, entrepreneurs were changing and so were venture capitalists. Coming out of the Great Internet Bubble, founders and VCs were demanding a different level of accountability of each other. Groups like First Round were talking about venture capital as a product with the entrepreneur as customer and the phrase “founder friendly” became almost cliché because every VC firm had adopted this catchphrase as part of their values. Underlying it all, however, was a tacit acknowledgment that venture capital is a multi-period interaction; in Silicon Valley, “you’re never on your way up or down, you’re always coming around.” In a world like that, inauthenticity can be an albatross, imposing costs that can be significant.
A fun time at Disrupt with my buddies Andy and Josh!
Here’s a fundraising tip: “you’ll be sorry you missed this” has never once worked as a tactic to get me – or most LPs for that matter – interested in a fund. Neither has telling me, “if you miss this fund you’ll never be able to get into future funds.”
Such bluster usually earns one-way ticket to my “managers” folder, a place that is alphabetically and existentially distinct from my “interesting managers” folder. After all, if you throw around the bombast with me, it makes me wonder: how do you treat entrepreneurs? I’m your shareholder; they’re your customers.
By Beezer Clarkson, Chris Douvos
Two LPs, a GP and a managing director from Cambridge Associates walk into a bar. Sounds like the opening to a killer gag that would be appreciated by dozens.
But wait, it wasn’t a bar, it was a lowly conference room in New York City. And rather than being protagonists in a joke, these four cats – Andy Weissman from Union Square Ventures, Theresa Hajer from Cambridge Associates, Chris Douvos from VIA Funds and Beezer Clarkson from Sapphire Ventures – were co-hosting an afternoon roundtable discussion at last week’s VentureCrushNY (graciously hosted by Ed Zimmerman, Chair of Lowenstein Sandler’s Tech Group). Along with these four co-hosts were about 20 people, mostly GPs with a few brave entrepreneurs and fellow LPs mixed in. Our topic was “The Outlook for LPs in Venture Funds”.
I just got off an advisory board call on which we were talking about the squirrely markets and the challenges that start-ups will face in the coming months. While I’m guessing we’re unlikely to see another “Good Times R.I.P.” soon, startups are generally being asked to tighten their belts. Some clever cat suggested that it’s “Watney Time,” for start-ups, invoking Mark Watney, the botanist protagonist in The Martian. “You don’t know when the next shipment of food is coming.”
All of this austerity talk got me thinking about a blog post I wrote in late 2008. The 2650 days since I wrote the original post seem like an eternity — and comprise several generations of start-up founders — so I thought I’d repost as a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same . . .