Blake Borgeson, in blog form

suspected facts. validated opinions.

Posts Tagged ‘vc

marc andreessen’s greatest blog hits

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I started following blog.pmarca.com a few months back after it kept getting referenced by venturehacks. I knew of Marc Andreessen–he designed mosaic, the first mass web browser, which sort of turned into netscape when he cofounded that company in his early 20s. Since then, he sold netscape to aol, started opsware in 99 and sold it to hp in 2007 for $1.6B, and most recently cofounded ning, which it so happens is also doing quite well.

Anyway, after reading this particular post, where Andreessen discusses a personal meeting he had with Barack Obama about a year ago, I realized he had a lot to say that I wanted to read. He only really started blogging in July of last year, but in the first 3 months he was extremely prolific. I thought it would do me good to go back through his archives, and the posts were so good I started summarizing them for future reference, and then I thought, why not post the summaries. Perhaps it will give you easier access to his great thoughts.

This is only the first 3 months of archives, but it hits the high points of most of his bigger essay-style advice posts. I’m crossing my fingers that this kind of summary is seen as helpful rather than plagiaristic in the blogging community. If I don’t have the plagiarism police knocking on my door after this, I’m thinking about doing the same thing with some of Paul Graham’s ‘essays’–I’ve gotten a lot out of those as well, but I imagine few people take the time to read such long posts.

I didn’t provide links directly to the posts, but they’re in chronological order, so you should be able to find them at blog.pmarca.com. And I’m sorry the formatting didn’t come out well, but unless I get a lot more readers here, there’s no way I’m reformatting all this. =)

⁃ Get adium ⁃ blogging: marsedit ⁃ for php, use zend ⁃ delicious: cocoalicious or delibar ⁃ flicker: 1001 ⁃ twitter: twitteriffic ⁃ parallels with xp, never vista

⁃ don’t keep a schedule: allows you to do whatever’s most important and maximize FLOW ⁃ 3 lists: todo, watch, and later ⁃ each night make a todo list of 3-5 items on a 3×5 card for the next day, keep it, write down anything you get done ⁃ structured procrastination – get stuff done while avoiding something you hate ⁃ strategic incompetence to get out of being responsible for stupid crap ⁃ email twice a day ⁃ don’t answer the phone. give a second number to all but the most important people (top friends, family, boss) ⁃ hide with headphones ⁃ not enough time to do everything – focus on what you love and turn the rest down ⁃ do what you love! that’s the point of all these tricks anyway

⁃ what defines success is a compelling product

⁃ what are you looking for
⁃ drive – what have they done to show it, and can you see it in their eyes ⁃ curiosity – love of learning, discovering ⁃ ethics
⁃ the process
⁃ write the process down! ⁃ test basic skills ⁃ plan out interview questions ⁃ pay attention in the interview to the little personality things ⁃ pay attention in the reference calls (do reference calls!) ⁃ fix bad hires fast, but not too fast

⁃ who should get funded:
⁃ vc’s invest in 10: 7 strikeouts, 2 base hits, 1 home run if they’re good: they need you to be the home run ⁃ their investment horizon is 4-6 years, and they need a good chance of a 10x return, meaning you need a hockey stick growth model within 4-6 years and be ready to ipo or sell in that time ⁃ if you fit the bill, you should go for it – grow as quickly as you can ⁃ if they turn you down, it’s usually 1 of 3 reasons, and if they tell you which, thank them
⁃ don’t see the 10x leverage ⁃ idea doesn’t look proven enough ⁃ your team doesn’t look solid (usually either the tech lead or the ceo)
⁃ vc’s investors are largely institutions, largely nonprofits ⁃ assume you’re just getting the money ⁃ you should ask for any help, not assume they’ll give it without asking

⁃ read rainbows end now ⁃ true names is vinge’s earlier one from 93 or so about today ⁃ also put accelerando – best singularity picture – in my amazon list and on my reading list

⁃ quote: I’m going to recommend a lot of books here on blog.pmarca.com, but this is one of the most important you’ll ever read: Philip Tetlock’s Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?.

⁃ infernal affairs – the departed was a remake of this hong kong film 4 years later

⁃ you need at least 1 business person capable of running the company and one technologist, the genius ⁃ saying you can make lots of money by getting 2% of your huge target market is naive – if you’re saying the big guys will have 98%, then they’ll kill you ⁃ marketing – make sure you’ll get more in each customer’s revenue than sales and marketing will cost per customer acquisition (“especially true in small business market”)

⁃ pick the right ones – investigate their focus, and only choose the right ones ⁃ pitch 3, if they say no, then 3 more…after 8 if they’ve all said no, something’s wrong. 3 saying no means nothing possibly ⁃ read vc blogs ⁃ blog

⁃ being in a great market trumps everything else ⁃ product/market fit is THE cause of success or failure ⁃ focus exclusively on that–you can basically ignore every other aspect

⁃ don’t do a startup that requires a deal with a big company – there’s almost no way to know what they’ll do ⁃ if you’ve got an opportunity, by all means take a stab at it, but don’t count on it–see first note

⁃ as much as you can, just like venturehacks says, without screwing the liquidation preference ⁃ you want a lot because
⁃ you don’t know for sure what will stick ⁃ bad times might hit
⁃ if you get a lot
⁃ don’t fall into just hiring mode and get bloated and lazy ⁃ do tell everyone in the company that getting funding isn’t an accomplishment: you have to get a product/market fit ⁃ splurge on monitors and chairs ⁃ scrimp on everything else ⁃ don’t hire too many people (super-important); don’t pay people too much (not as important) ⁃ act like you have a lot less ⁃ stick to progress deadlines

⁃ people want to stay at a winning company, so start winning ⁃ lead like you mean it – here’s a good quote: You don’t need to be certain of all the answers! Colin Powell says, “You know you’re a good leader when people follow you, if only out of curiosity.” So project boldness, and have that glint in your eye where people know you’re up to something big. ⁃ don’t create a new ‘innovation division’ or ‘growth team’ maybe — that tells everyone else they’re not supposed to innovate, and they’re on the b-team – spread innovation everywhere ⁃ don’t give huge spot equity or bonuses – makes the rest feel like the b-team, and angry if they half-deserved it ⁃ 5 main causes of retention: strong coworkers, interesting work, learning and growing, winning, and a high stock price

⁃ the four steps to the epiphany – steve blank – on reading list

⁃ thanks lots of people.

⁃ a couple of studies quoted indicating that people come up with more and better ideas separately than together

⁃ no battle plan survives contact with the enemy
⁃ microsoft: software->os ⁃ oracle: cia consultancy->productize database ⁃ intel: memory chips->cpu
⁃ the product/market combo that will work is really really hard to know, and you usually don’t when you start

⁃ read this a while ago, and skimming again, picked up most i think ⁃ overall output value correlates strongly with quantity of output -> more quantity doesn’t mean less quality – productivity and creativity go together ⁃ the earlier you start, your lifetime creative output is correspondingly higher ⁃ intelligence beyond a pretty low bar (120) seems to be irrelevant ⁃ the peak of creative output varies with the field between late 20s and 50s ⁃ poetry, pure math, theoretical physics: late 20s – early 30s ⁃ writing, history, philosophy – 40s-50s

⁃ read a while ago as well ⁃ pmarca summarizes and reworks a main point about luck and discovery taken from a book he recommends called chase, chance, and creativity, which is in my reading list ⁃ 4 types of lucky discoveries
⁃ 1 – uncontrolled, but still favors movement over stagnation ⁃ 2 – brought about through something not directly intended to bring it out, but favors curiosity and experimentation ⁃ 3 – like 2, but also requires understanding, memory, and synthesis to put the pieces together – observation is not as simple ⁃ 4 – favored by a purposeful lifestyle, eccentric hobbies, etc

[update: I added in the links to the posts.  In looking through this list again, I should say again this wasn’t meant to be all-inclusive in picking out useful information from pmarca’s blog–just notes I made for myself to reference that I then decided to post.]

Written by blakeweb

May 17, 2008 at 1:48 pm

fred wilson’s outstanding “new path to liquidity” discussion

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There’s an incredibly educational discussion in the comments of a blog post a couple of weeks ago over at Fred Wilson’s avc. I’m a little late to the party, I know, but that’s because it took some thinking and reading on it for the idea to sink in and resonate with me, which is often the case with ideas that really get in there and change how I think about something.

The main point is that some things about the startup/vc world are pretty broken, and a secondary market for shares in private companies is an interesting approach to fixing them that Fred brings up for discussion. Right now, vcs operate with some stringent constraints on how they can invest and what returns they need to see in what timeframe–see Marc Andreessen’s first post about vcs here for a good rundown. The paths to generating a sufficient return to the investors in new companies within the first few years are 1) to grow the company large enough to sell off part of the company in an IPO, which is hard and uncommon, especially when the public markets are taking a beating, like now, and which also legally requires the company to jump through all kinds of crazy hoops to guarantee regular citizens have the information they need to make an informed decision to invest in the company; or 2) to sell the entire company to an acquirer, usually private equity or a big company like Google or Microsoft in the tech world. So really, the main way right now for the initial investors and founders to not only get money but also retain ownership is IPO, which is operationally challenging, and next to impossible when the market for it is like it is right now. So what ends up happening instead is that the company gets bought, the founders and investors get paid, and the acquiring company usually doesn’t care quite as much about the bright future the company had as it does about integrating the technology, the users, and the technical team into its operations.

So it seems like one way to solve this quandary is to let new investors come in and buy a chunk of the company. The original vcs get paid a good chunk, so their investors are happy. The founders get paid a good chunk, and also retain ownership in the company, keeping them very vested in its future. The new investor gets the chance to buy stock, basically, in an incredibly awesome startup before anyone else, because it really understands the market and is willing to do its homework to make sure it’s a smart investment. Rather than getting rolled up into a big company, the startup remains independent and has the chance to continue to pursue the market-changing or world-changing long-term vision its founders had when they started it in the first place (at least I’d wager they had a pretty good vision, if the company did as well as we’re talking here).

So here’s Fred’s blog post again where all the discussions take place, and that discussion in and of itself is extremely educational. If you want to see how a really great vc, both performance-wise and mentality-wise, thinks about his job, scan down the page and read Fred’s comments and the surrounding discussions.

And here’s a link to the short version: a video interview Fred gave a couple days after the blog post briefly outlining the idea.

Written by blakeweb

April 25, 2008 at 1:33 pm

Posted in startups

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