September 25, 2016: The startup community in any town is generally viewed as a collegial place where eager entrepreneurs pursue their dreams and encourage one another’s achievements. It’s a happy world.
September 18, 2016: In startup financings there is usually much discussion about control. The founding group always wants to maintain voting control, and there is a valid argument for leaving enough room in the cap table to allow for subsequent higher value rounds. As I have frequently written, most professional investors will give you the psychological win of maintaining a voting majority but will protect themselves on the downside with the terms and conditions of a new class of stock such as a participating preferred.
September 12, 2016: Today’s essay is on running your startup by the numbers, once it is no longer a twinkle in your eye and has actually started. Too many entrepreneurs fall prey to their vision and allow it to overcome reality. I’ve done that myself many times and have had to be reeled in by my CFO.
September 5, 2016: Some recent successful exits in Austin have caught my eye for the relative simplicity of their business models. Patient IO is a case in point. AthenaHealth (NASDAQ: ATHN) acquired this young (2013) company to anchor a more individualized approach to patient care. ATHN was already a strategic investor, and Patient IO had participated in its More Disruption Please accelerator. So, no introductions were necessary.
August 28, 2016: All the muddled news of this past week about the health of our presidential nominees suggests a look at career horizons. We talk a lot about investment horizons; many VC partnerships are set up for ten years, on the theory that the money is put to work early and all the portfolio is exited by the tenth year. I can name a few companies in the 16th year of one of these arrangements, with no end in sight. They’re all too stable to fold up and be gone, or they are growing steadily but not fast enough to bring a meaningful outcome into view.
August 21, 2016: Every startup leadership team has periodic arguments. There are always many gray areas in which one person’s guess may be as good as another’s. Monty Python’s sketch on this topic is one of my all-time favorites of theirs. It’s also the only bit of psychological rigor in this essay.
I rarely do lists in this forum, but this subject seems most appropriate for that, don’t you agree?
August 14, 2016: I often describe myself as an expert at “starting the start.” Most of the students and budding entrepreneurs I advise have an idea and want to know literally how to convert that idea into a startup. My recommendations are applicable generically across a broad array of technology sectors, in part because I’ve personally had a wide variety of personal experience and in part because I’ve judged many thousands of entrants in startup competitions.
August 7, 2016: This past week I arranged a listening tour in Georgia related to my biomedical deal there. This was an opportunity for the founding doctor and me to talk with our lead investors, board members, healthcare partners, and others. The goal was to give candid updates about the business and seek counsel on recent modifications to our strategy. This was a successful trip, and it was a reminder of the importance of asking the right questions and being an attentive listener to the answers.
July 31, 2016: The political conventions of the last two weeks seem to have settled the election into a binary choice, unless by some miracle the Libertarian candidates can wedge themselves into the debates and capture a few votes in the Electoral College. Let’s assume for this essay that miracle will not happen.
July 24, 2016: Last week’s essay dealt with the fine art of pricing your startup product or service. Pricing is inextricably tied to your volume projections, so let’s now look into your crystal ball on that topic.
The most common mistake I see is estimating from the top down. You’ve created a must-have product for left-handers, and you know that approximately 10% of the US population is left-handed. So, there are 30M+ customers. Surely you can get 10% of that market and have 3M users, right? Or left? It looks easy.