Posts tagged ‘Fred Wilson’

May 19, 2014

Voted the Startup Journalist of the year in Iceland

NSA_logo-fullI could not believe that I was nominated as a Startup Journalist of the Year in Iceland by The Nordic Startup Awards. You can guess how delighted I was when I saw a tweet last evening that I Won! It was a great feeling but also very humbling. I have been writing about the Startup Community and Ecosystem and Entrepreneurship from my eyes in Iceland since 2009, I never thought this blog was anything but a resource for Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs. I started writing because I thought maybe someone out there might see what we are going through in Iceland as Investors, Entrepreneurs and Startups interesting and could provide some inspiration, knowledge and resource so their journey is easier. Well, not easier but atleast they could relate and say, yes, I understand and I am not alone in this path. This award is a big recognition to the readers of this blog, without them reading, talking about what is being written here and sharing that with their community, it would have not got nominated in the first place.

We all seek connection, a sense of belonging. I almost naturally gravitate towards my tribe, which is the tribe of Entrepreneurs and Startup Founders. I made it my mission to help my tribe and this blog is nothing but that mission coming alive. To be recognized by the Nordic Startup Awards is another testament to the fact that if you are passionate about something and genuine about the mission and work hard at living the mission the recognition comes. I am constantly asked why do I do this? I do this because it could help someone like me struggling to find a path, I remember distinctly when I was fired from my job because the entire financial system in Iceland collapsed… I was searching for an outlet to release my inner voice, to say that it is ok and everything will be fine. I write because I was inspired to write by my mentor Brad Feld and Fred Wilson and Mark Suster and million other blogger who are relentless in writing and using writing as a means to express their thoughts, ideas, action and to build a community.

So, here is a last piece of thought…  There is nothing stopping us from putting down our thoughts, there is something therapeutic about writing. Use the tools like any of the blogging platforms like Tumblr, WordPress, Google+, Blogger etc Pick a subject that you are passionate about and be disciplined about writing about it regularly. I used to blog everyday, I do that at times but I also take breaks from blogging to gather my thoughts. I find blogging and writing as my creative outlet, it may not be the best or beautifully written but it helps me think. Brad wrote about this recently. I attended TEDx Reykjavik over the weekend and one of the speaker was Guðrún Ingibjörg Þorgeirsdóttir, and I connected with her talk titled “How writing changed a life”. Get your computers out and start writing.

Here are all the other winners in the Nordic Startup Awards, really proud to be in this list… all of the winners and nominees are doing a great service to the Startup Community in Iceland and I bow to them and I hope more people and companies volunteer their hearts and their minds to building a sustainable startup community in Iceland.

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May 10, 2014

Net Neutrality, Startup Communities and Permissionless Innovation

permissionlessinnovationIf you have not noticed what is happening to Net Neutrality and the FCC’s vote on May 15th you really need to. Fred Wilson of USV has written an Open Letter to the FCC Chairman and most of the prominent Venture Firms have signed up. This is an important debate although it is being fought in the US, it impacts all the startup communities around the world. Europe has actually got it right and the way this was done was through legislation, the last mile is the main problem and by legislating that the last mile also be treated like all of the network, the consumer can choose any service provider irrespective of which provider she choose first, think of it like buying a mobile phone with no long term contract and if you don’t like the call dropping just switch the SIM card and get better service. The US has a big problem in this because of consolidation, there are relatively very few players like Comcast, Verizon, Fox Netw, CenturyLink etc and the choices in front of the consumer are quite limited. Here is a video that defines the problem and the challenges. This also opens up opportunities to small startup communities like Iceland to provide a stable ground to do permission-less innovation and disruption. This was the original idea that I wrote about a while back based on Brad Burnham’s blog post, that Iceland has an opportunity to be the “Internet Enterprise Zone”

Here is the open letter written by Fred and signed by most of the VC community:

The Honorable Tom Wheeler, Chairman

Federal Communications Commission

445 12th Street, SW

Washington D.C. 20554

May 8, 2014

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

We write to express our support for a free and open Internet.  

We invest in entrepreneurs, investing our own funds and those of our investors (who are individuals, pension funds, endowments, and financial institutions).  We often invest at the earliest stages, when companies include just a handful of founders with largely unproven ideas. But, without lawyers, large teams or major revenues, these small startups have had the opportunity to experiment, adapt, and grow, thanks to equal access to the global market.  As a result, some of the startups we have invested in have managed to become among the most admired, successful, and influential companies in the world.

We have made our investment decisions based on the certainty of a level playing field and of assurances against discrimination and access fees from Internet access providers. Indeed, our investment decisions in Internet companies are dependent upon the certainty of an equal-opportunity marketplace.

Based on news reports and your own statements, we are worried that your proposed rules will not provide the necessary certainty that we need to make investment decisions and that these rules will stifle innovation in the Internet sector.

If established companies are able to pay for better access speeds or lower latency, the Internet will no longer be a level playing field. Start-ups with applications that are advantaged by speed (such as games, video, or payment systems) will be unlikely to overcome that deficit no matter how innovative their service. Entrepreneurs will need to raise money to buy fast lane services before they have proven that consumers want their product. Investors will extract more equity from entrepreneurs to compensate for the risk. Internet applications will not be able to afford to create a relationship with millions of consumers by making their service freely available and then build a business over time as they better understand the value consumers find in their service (which is what Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Reddit, Dropbox and virtually other consumer Internet service did to achieve scale).

Instead, creators will have to ask permission of an investor or corporate hierarchy before they can launch. Ideas will be vetted by committees and quirky passion projects will not get a chance. An individual in dorm room or a design studio will not be able to experiment out loud on the Internet. The result will be greater conformity, fewer surprises, and less innovation.

Further, investors like us will be wary of investing in anything that access providers might consider part of their future product plans for fear they will use the same technical infrastructure to advantage their own services or use network management as an excuse to disadvantage competitive offerings.  Policing this will be almost impossible (even using a standard of “commercial reasonableness”) and access providers do not need to successfully disadvantage their competition; they just need to create a credible threat so that investors like us will be less inclined to back those companies.

We need simple, strong, enforceable rules against discrimination and access fees, not merely against blocking.

We encourage the Commission to consider all available jurisdictional tools at its disposal in ensuring a free and open Internet that rewards, not disadvantages, investment and entrepreneurship.

Sincerely,

Puneet Agarwal, True Ventures

Sam AltmanY Combinator

Kristian Andersen, Gravity Ventures

Sherman Atkinson, Miramar Digital Ventures

Phineas Barnes, First Round Capital

Phil Black, True Ventures

Brady Bohrmann, Avalon Ventures

Mike Brown, Jr., Bowery Capital

Douglas W. Burke, Angel Investor

Brad Burnham, Union Square Ventures

Jeffrey Bussgang, Flybridge Capital Partners

John Buttrick, Union Square Ventures

Jon Callaghan, True Ventures

Jeff Carter, Hyde Park Angels

Joe Chung, Redstar Ventures

Michael Collett, Promus Ventures

Tony Conrad, True Ventures

Ron Conway, SV Angel

Fred Coulson, Five Elms Capital

Owen Davis, NYC Seed

Tej Dhawan, Nestmint and Plains Angels

Gil Dibner, DFJ Esprit

Roger Dickey, Rocket Street Ventures

Chris Dixon, Andreessen Horowitz

Liam Donohue, .406 Ventures

Bob Dorf, Investor and Entrepreneurial Educator

Bill Draper, Draper Richards

Nicholas Eisenberger, Pure Energy Partners

Roger Ehrenberg, IA Ventures

Brad Feld, Foundry Group

Stephen Findlay, Angel Investor

Ryan Floyd, Storm Ventures

Chris Fralic, First Round Capital

Christopher Forbes, Angel Investor

David Frankel, Founder Collective

Christie George, New Media Ventures

Rob Go, Next View Ventures

Matt Golden, Golden Venture Partners

Matthew Greenfield, Rethink Education

Nick Grossman, Union Square Ventures

Bruce Hallett, Miramar Digital Ventures

Rick Heitzmann, FirstMark Capital

Troy Henikoff, TechStars

Eric Hippeau, Lerer Ventures

Bob Holmen, Miramar Venture Partners

Rob Hutter, Learn Capital

Nabeel A. Hyatt, Spark Capital

Mark Jacobsen, OATV

Deborah Jackson, Angel Investor

Jodi Sherman Jahic, Aligned Partners

Nikhil Kalghatgi, Vast Ventures

Mitch Kapor, Kapor Capital

Jon Karlen, Atlas Venture

Josh Kopelman, First Round Capital

Manu Kumar, K9 Ventures

David Lee, SV Angel

Kenneth Lerer, Lerer Ventures

Robert Levitan, Angel Investor

Adam Lilling, Plus Capital

John Lilly, Greylock Partners

Howard Lindzon, Social Leverage

Trevor Loy, Flywheel Ventures

Om Malik, True Ventures

Kanyi Maqubela, Collaborative Fund

Jason Mendelson, Foundry Group

Josh Mendelsohn, Hattery

Aaron Merriman, Eurovestech PLC

Ann Miura-Ko, Floodgate

Howard Morgan, First Round Capital

Dave Morin, Slow Ventures

Dave Moylan, Yenni Capital

Kevin Murphy, Angel Investor

David J. Namdar, SolidX Partners

Farzad (Zod) Nazem, Angel Investor

Jason Neal, Jumpstart Capital

Jerry Neumann, Neu.vc

Tim O’Reilly, OATV

Alexis Ohanian, Initialized Capital

David Pakman, Venrock

Eric Paley, Founder Collective

Andrew Parker, Spark Capital

Massimiliano Pellegrini, Angel Investor

William Peng, Red Swan Ventures

Matt Penneycard, PCB Capital

Perry Rahbar, Rahbar Angel

Sameer Rashid, Pure Energy Partners

Naval Ravikant, AngelList

Eric Ries, Angel Investor & Author

Neil Rimer, Index Ventures

David Ristow, Eurovestech PLC

Bryce Roberts, OATV

James Robinson, RRE Ventures

John Ruffolo, OMERS Ventures

Chris Sacca, Lowercase Capital

Ahsun Saleem, Clippership International

Ted Sapountzis, Angel Investor

Eric Satz, TNCV Fund

Toni Schneider, True Ventures

Andrew Schoen, New Enterprise Associates

Jason Schoettler, Shea Ventures

Christopher M. Schroeder, Venture Investor

Jonathan Seelig, Globespan Capital Partners

Rishi Shah, Jumpstart Ventures

KJ Singh, Techstars

Jim Stewart, True Ventures

Tim Streit, Huron River Ventures

Mike Stubler, Draper Triangle Ventures

Brad Svrluga, High Peaks Venture Partners

Mark E. Swanson, Lane Five Ventures

Brett Topche, MentorTech Ventures

Brent S. Traidman, Fenox Venture Capital

Hunter Walk, Homebrew

Matt Walters, Ardent Capital

Andrew Weissman, Union Square Ventures

Albert Wenger, Union Square Ventures

Boris Wertz, Version One Ventures

Andy White, Vegas Tech Fund

Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures

Sam Yagan, Corazon Capital LLC

Namek Zu’bi, Silicon Badia

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March 14, 2014

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

the_hard_thing_about_hard_things__building_a_business_when_there_are_no_easy_answers__ben_horowitz__9780062273208__amazon-com__booksIf you have not seen the recommendation by Brad Feld and Fred Wilson to get the book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben Horowitz. Here are some exerpts that should motivate you to read the book. I have referred to Ben’s blog a number of times in my blog posts. I think Ben writes from his heart and it shows. I am about halfway through the book and I have to say I am hooked and I keep thinking about the book despite all the other things that I doing.

I have to say the best chapter in the book so far has been Chapter 5 – Take Care of the People, the products, and the profits – in that order. This chapter really resonated with me as I have been given feedback that I spend too much time taking care of the people, it was great to get some validation for my beliefs. There is a reason why I write a lot more about Leadership and Team Development in this blog because I feel we seem to have forgotten that a Company or a Startup or a Service is nothing but a collection of people and if the empathy, their dreams, trust, relationship and love is lost between the team member all other things fail. Here is an excerpt from the book

My old boss Jim Barksdale was fond of saying, “We take care of the people, the products, and the profits – in that order.” It’s a simple saying, but it’s deep. “Taking care of the people” is the most difficult of the three by far and if you don’t do it, the other two won’t matter. Taking care of the people means that your company is a good place to work. Most workplaces are far from good. As organizations grow large, important work go unnoticed, the hardest workers can get passed over by the best politicians, and bureaucratic processes can choke out the creativity and remove all the joy.

When everything went wrong from the dot-com crash to NASDAQ threatening to delist the company, the thing that saved us were the techniques developed in this chapter. If your company is a good place to work, you too may live long enough to find your glory.

Are you intrigued to read the rest of the chapter? I was and I am reading it as I type this. Go and get the book! it would be the best thing you did.

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February 7, 2014

Investing in Startups

Warren BuffetI had no idea what to do when I first decided that I wanted to invest in Entrepreneurship and Startups. It all looked so crazy and uncertain to me, however I had a background in Software Engineering and Management Consulting thanks to my 7 year education in Ernst & Young and Capgemini. I searched all over the internet and read all the books that I could get my hands on to learn about Venture Investing, I have written about what Fred Wilson wrote to me when I asked him what advice he would give to a new Venture Investor… it was quite simple, he said “Hold onto your money, it always takes longer and more money!” I took that advice to heart. It is rather futile to go into Venture Investing if one does not take the time to learn the sequence, apply strategies, tinker/pivot and skill required to be an venture investor. As an Entrepreneur it is also very important to take the time to understand the total capital need to build a sustainable business. I meet so many entrepreneurs who don’t take the time to really understand the actual capital need to build businesses. Even worse are those investors who are doing this for the first time but are totally unaware of the total capital need. They jump in with some money and then decide we will figure it out along the way, not a good idea. I have noticed experienced investors know how long it takes a startup in the B2C or B2B or any other service sector to get to scale. Me and my partners got lucky with CLARA, but we knew the business we were investing in. I cannot say the same to a number of other investors. I wrote a blog post titled “Organic Growth vs Get Big Fast” on a talk that Joel Spolsky did on Y Combinator Startup School. Knowing the total capital need and the strategy to acquire it is paramount. Not knowing will push you to the poor house very quickly. There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path… it is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

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January 27, 2014

Are we the horse?

Albert Wenger

Albert Wenger (Photo credit: Joi)

This is a talk given by Albert Wenger one of the partners in Union Square Ventures and Fred Wilson shared this. I highly recommend this talk as it goes into the Context of the changes that we are starting to see in the world today. Future is not something that is going to happen, it is what is happening now in a context that changes how we do things in the future. I think there is only one way to not be a horse… learn to be an Entrepreneur, everyone can be an Entrepreneur. There are numerous problems that need to be solved. Learn tools, process and technologies that prepares you to take ownership of your life and professional careers. I advice all the students that I meet to start looking for ways to solve problem with teams and create jobs rather than search for a job.  

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January 24, 2014

6 Biggest Mistakes Founders Make

jerrycolonnaI have written about Jerry Colona the uber founder/ceo coach and former VC and partner of Fred Wilson. Here he is talking to Jason Calanis of This week in Startup. It is an hour and half program, I highly encourage you to listen to this. Jerry writes at themonsterinyourhead.com, a very self-awareness and psychology of being an entrepreneur blog. I cannot recommend this enough to anyone.

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November 28, 2013

Bitcoins

source wikipedia

Brad Feld had a very interesting post about Bitcoins and Fred has been a fan of Bitcoins. Given that I was working on my PhD in Economics it was only a matter of time before you heard about my 2 cents :) just kidding about the Economics part… I valued the learning and relationships and network but application of those principles in real life always falls short of anything useful. I apologize to all my Economics Professors, as one say  “Its not you… its me” problem. Lets define what is desirable in a medium of exchange, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel on this we can logically determine what are the characteristics of a good medium of exchange

  1. Needs to be accepted by providers of value i.e I should be willing to denominate any good or service that I provide in that medium of exchange a.k.a currency
  2. Needs to be able store its value as a self contained unit with someone backing the value, in market terms a market maker i.e someone willing to buy it from me for something else of value at all times (BTW, that is one of the big functions of Central Banks we can argue until cows go home whether it is right or wrong). Market makers provide liquidity to the system. Unfortunately self governed systems seem to lock up when there is trading frenzy. The last sentence in itself warrants a blog post and several books have been written explaining this.
  3. Needs to be portable, transferable and safe… ie not lose its value due to external factors. This is the hardest one to maintain because value and safety are functions of resilience and foundation.

There are lot more, like it needs to be divisible, available, transportable etc but for me the above 3 are very important. Given these things do I believe Bitcoins can live upto it? yes it is possible but in the near future not really sure. I think the problem we have is Bitcoin has become a medium of speculation rather than a medium of exchange. I think speculation is not a bad thing but if that is driving the frenzy then it violates the 2 characteristic that I listed above. No-one would be talking about Bitcoins if its value has not be gyrating like a giant seesaw. I think the crowd mentality to follow this “frenzy” is crazy, reminds me of the dot com bubble and then the financial crisis. I like Warren Buffet‘s response

@beckyquick tweet

I have never understood the speculation on Currency because that usually does not create any value and if one has market moving capabilities like Fred Wilson or Brad Feld, maybe they can create value out of this. IMHO, they are not interested in the speculative nature of Bitcoins but more the reason to reduce friction on the transactions on the internet. When one looks at Bitcoins as a way to disrupt the online transactions market it makes a lot of sense. As anyone who has sold anything on the internet can tell you the transaction cost per transaction is quite high until you get to scale because the ultimate settlement is still done the traditional way. I shake my head everytime I am charged $25/wire transfer by Bank of America online banking. Makes no sense! Bitcoins and other ways of facilitating online transaction that reduces friction is of considerable value and they basically can disrupt the strong hold held by transaction settling companies like Banks and Credit Card providers.

November 14, 2013

Marketing trumps Technology…

Mac vs PCI have been having a very interesting discussion with my technology team, and I was made aware of this article in Forbes written by Anthony Wing Kosner with the title “Stanford vs MIT: How Marketing Trumps Technology in Startups“… before you all start sending me flame mail, I am not saying Technology is not important just that Marketing trumps Technology and please read the article and read the argument below. Fred Wilson of AVC.com started a huge uproad when he took a swibe at Marketing here and he corrected himself by saying that his blog post was a bug. I think there is marketing and there is marketing… I believe Marketing is telling a story about your vision, value and why you believe anyone should use what you are making or envisioning. Seth Godin had a very response to the original post by Fred. Marketing != Advertising, lets think about this, when you are building a startup, it is an experiment until you figure out the Product to Market fit, and while you are doing that experiment you still need to tell your story. If you are not telling your story nobody really cares to ask you about your story. Sequencing marketing activities and team buildup is an important skill and IMHO an art i.e when do you scale the marketing team. I believe very strongly that while you are experimenting in figuring out the product to market fit you still need to spend resources ie. time, money, people in telling a story, it sounds extremely counter intuitive to Engineers, how can you tell a story about something you have not built yet… that is the visioning part of your startup. If you cannot envision the value, the problem, the solution and the experiments to find the market that you will serve, you are just pandering to the builder in you. In addition, even if the product you have built is great, without marketing there is no way to scale it to a point where it starts selling itself. This is a tough pill to swallow especially for Engineers and Technologist, who love the building part but don’t really care about the Marketing and Selling part. There is a point in time in your startup life you need to deal with this challenge. What I have found is that European/Scandinavian/Nordic Startups due to cultural reasons do not want to tell a story before they are sure that there is a story where as Startup in the US are much better at this. It is no magic that most successful startups come out from across the pond. I know I know hate me but the data does not lie.

May 16, 2013

Analysis Paralysis

obama_oj

The cereal box sold by Team AirBnB to raise money to fund the company

You can really pass on a great deal based on how you think. Here is a great post by Fred Wilson with the title “You can do too much Due Diligence“, it is a classic case of mea culpa and analysis paralysis. I really admire Fred for coming out and admitting his mistakes, he did that with AirBnB as well. In the last couple of weeks, there have been many people who have reached out to me and do the same about CLARA. As I have mentioned before, we were very lucky to find Team CLARA and the work that we were able to do get the deal done. That being said, I am sure if me and my partners had put on the hat of figuring out what could go wrong with our investment and done too much due diligence we may have passed on the deal. Here is an excerpt from Fred’s post:

So what did I learn from this lesson? First, trust your gut. I was using Feedburner and knew it was a very useful service. I felt that others would see that too. They did, but it took some time. Second, I learned that a service can get traction with the little guys and in time, the big guys will come along. I have seen that happen quite a bit since then. And finally, I learned that you can do too much due diligence. It’s important to talk to the market and hear what it is saying. But you have to balance that with other things; the quality of the team, the product, the user experience, etc. You cannot rely alone on due diligence, particularly early on in the development of a company and a market.

I can relate to what Fred is talking about, I have really had to change my thinking to trust my gut. Our understanding of the world is very limited, we fool ourselves into talking and thinking ourselves into not following our heart or our gut. These tools have been given to us through the ages, over millennia of evolution. I surprise myself how we use our epistemological arrogance to suppress our primal instincts… there are times we need to do that, but not when it comes to investing in people or ventures. You need to take chance and work to mitigate the risk. All things are risky but the tricky part is no-one knows what is risky … that being said I would not do what Tom Hanks and Shelley Long did either :)

May 9, 2013

Software Patents – New Zealand takes the lead

New Zealand                   1

Source: Forbes

Source: Forbes

Patent Trolls                   0

In the world of bits and bytes, the above score means a lot. If you have been following my chain of thought, I believe Software is going to run everything we use. I have written about it before, the biggest hurdle in the exciting development is a cog in the wheel called the Patent Trolls ie. companies setup to just acquire the patent rights and basically bulldoze startups or any company trying to innovate by seeking high patent infringement fees. No-one is immune to this problem. If you want to understand how this whole software patent things has become convoluted and how to solve it read the post by Nick Grossman from Union Square Ventures. Brad Feld, Jason Mendelson, Brad Burnham and Fred Wilson have been writing (here, here and here), educating and lobbying for a better way to address this challenge. However, I think New Zealand has shown the way by completely abolishing Software Patents, in my opinion we need something as bold as that in Iceland. I don’t believe Software Patents work. In addition, since the patent process is so structured anyone with enough money and backing could define a problem and a possible solutions and patent it thereby prevent/block anyone else to approach or address the problem. This is silly. I think we need common sense to define laws and not allow laws to trump common sense. IMHO, Software Patents are for loosers! there you go I said it. I have worked in the software business long enough to say that there is nothing patentable in Software, it is like me patenting my thinking what good is that if we cannot create something of value that solves a real world problem? There are many ways to solve a problem using software and I think it behooves us as a community to allow anyone to solve it better and allow the consumers to vote with their feet.  Look what happens with Software Patent troll:

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