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So is this a Great Time or a Terrible Time to Found a Startup?

Now what?  Who is right?  And the debate does not stop here, it sparked a pretty good discussion in the Enterprise Irregulars group. I think both sides are correct.  It’s a Great Time and It’s a Terrible Time… read my take on CloudAve.

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Damn, I Want to be a Developer … in Boulder, Colorado

Too bad I am not.  Which is why I don’t qualify for this all expenses paid trip to Boulder:

And the pitch:

Boulder Needs More Kickass Developers

Want a FREE trip to beautiful Boulder, Colorado? The Boulder tech scene is growing like crazy. Twenty of our top tech startups (you can see a few in the sidebar) have banded together to fly in one hundred top software developers, programmers and engineers from across the country, all expenses paid. You can apply to be one of the hundred.

So here we go, getting our daily dose of layoff news, while Boulder startups are in shortage of talent.  Good developers are still worth gold … somewhere. (They mine gold in Coloradosmile_wink)

Developers.  Not Management, Marketing, Sales – not the MBA’s.  And that’s the clue to understanding a lot of the differences between the startup world we have today and during the late 90’s bubble.

Back then startups got VC-funded and part of the deal was bringing in “pro” management teams: the MBA-types and former corporate Executives who flooded the Valley in the hope of IPO-riches.  Founders found themselves in VP / Director positions, or got pushed out, if not, they were left wondering how their little baby got to hundreds of employees so fast and just what all these new managers were doing with their company.  Then the bubble burst, and the imported Exec’s rushed back to the safety of the corporate world leaving the wreckage behind.

Today most Web 2.0 startups are run by the original Founder, often a developer him/herself. This is now the age of the technologist, not the business manager. The roles are reversed.  These CEO’s, Founders, team members won’t jump ship – the ship is theirs, and there’s nowhere to run back anyway.  One more reason to be optimistic about their survival.

In the meantime, here’s a preview of what it’s like to work in Colorado, also home of TechStars and Defrag (use discount code zoli1 to get $300 off @Defrag)

(Originally posted @ CloudAve.  To stay up-to-date on SaaS, Cloud Computing and Business, grab the CloudAve Feed here)

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No, the Sky is Not Falling in Startup-land

Lot’s of noise today, RIP Good TimesIT’S OVER! POP GOES THE BUBBLE, Sorry, Startups: Party’s Over etc.   I think the panic is overdone.

Sure, a lot of startups will fall – and some of them would have done so without a recession anyway. Times are officially tough, but the truly strong businesses will survive, and some of the Web 2.0 whiz-kid baby-CEOs  will come out of this as battle-hardened Entrepreneurs.

Talk about Executives… some can wreck the business on their own, they don’t need a crisis: see Entellium wrecked by fraud.

Finally some startups think they can keep on re-architecting forever – see NetBooks, ViewPath (the latter just came out with a new product though.)  Good luck to them… wonder if their market runs away…

These are some of the thoughts I’m discussing on CloudAve today – read more here.  Even better, grab the feed here.

Update:  Want to get off the “Sky is falling” treadmill? Need inspiration?  Find it here.

Even better, get really inspired at Defrag.  Use discount code zoli1 to get $300 off.

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SVASE VC Breakfast with Hambrecht Geneva Ventures in San Francisco

Fincancial crisis or not, VC investments did not entirely disappear, it’s just getting increasingly difficult to get funded.  But VCs are still on the lookout, and as proof I’ll be moderating another SVASE VC Breakfast Club meeting this Thursday, October 2nd in San Francisco.

As usual, it’s an informal round-table where up to 10 entrepreneurs get to deliver a pitch, then answer questions and get critiqued by a VC Partner. We’ve had VC’s from Draper Fisher,  Kleiner Perkins, Mayfield, Mohr Davidow, Emergence Capital …etc.  This time we’ll welcome Peter Morrissey, Managing Director, Hambrecht Geneva Ventures.

These breakfast meetings are a valuable opportunity for Entrepreneurs, most of whom would probably have a hard time getting through the door to VC Partners. Since I’ve been through quite a few of these sessions, both as Entrepreneur and Moderator, let me share a few thoughts:

  • It’s a pressure-free environment, with no PowerPoint presentations, live demos, Business Plans…etc, just casual conversation; but it does not mean you should come unprepared!
  • Follow a structure, don’t just roam about what you would like to do, or even worse, spend all your time describing the problem, without addressing what your solution is.
  • Don’t forget “small things” like the Team, Product, Market..etc.
  • It would not hurt to mention how much you are looking for, and how you would use the funds…
  • Write down and practice your pitch, and prepare to deliver a compelling story in 2-3 minutes. You will have about 8-10 minutes, the first half of which is your pitch,  but believe me, whatever your practice time was, when you are on the spot, you will likely take twice as long to deliver your story. The second half of your time-slot is Q&A with the VC.
  • Bring an Executive Summary; some VC’s like it, others don’t.
  • Last, but not least, please be on time! I am not kidding… some of you know why I even have to bring this up. Arriving an hour late to a one-and-a-half-hour meeting is NOT acceptable, but we’ve had too many such incidents, so here’s a new rule:  if you’re late by more than 20 minutes, you will not be allowed to join the session.

Here’s the event info page, and please remember to register the next three Entrepreneurs get in free, contact me here.

See you in San Francisco!

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I Wanted to Invest in Photobucket, Too

After all, those greedy Partners who stole this deal from their Limited Partners made a coupla millions each.

What do you mean they didn’t steal it?  Oh, their firm, Insight Venture Partners only does late-stage deals and Photobucket did not qualify?  Hm.. small detail, who cares?  It’s still guaranteed profit, I want in on such deals.

What?  Not guaranteed?  Are you crazy?  Oh, you mean this is what Venture Capital is all about.. you take a risk and invest in a company that could actually be a dud?  Oh, boy, now where do I make my safe millions?

And what’s all this fuss about? smile_baringteeth

Wall Street Journal, CNET News.com, Silicon Alley Insider, A VC, Valleywag, PE Hub Blog, Technology Live , Startup Chatter, paidcontent.org.

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LinkedIn: One Billion Dream Dollars

Yes, I like LinkedIN, and am one of the very early users, from the early days before social networks become trendy. Simply because, unlike some of the more fashionable networks, I actually found it useful for business.

But is it worth One Billion Dollars?  Apparently it is – if you ask Bain Capital Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Greylock Partners, and Bessemer Ventures, who just invested a whopping $53M  with the even more whopping $1B valuation.  $53 million is a decent exit for some startups – but LinkedIN has about $100M in annual revenues.  Still, I really wonder what kind of stratospheric exit (IPO) valuation the current investors expect.

Or perhaps Kara Swisher is right:

Why go public when you can just pretend?

Exactly. smile_omg

Update (6/18):  In celebration of entering the Billion-Dollar Club, LinkedIn is down.

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SVASE Green VC Panel in the East Bay

Venture capitalists have been pouring money into “clean technology” companies – $2.2 billion in 2007, an increase of 46% over 2006. Why are VCs making so many long-term, capital-intensive bets? Which technologies will be world-changing, and which will be duds?

In living proof that there is life outside the Palo Alto / Menlo Park proximity, SVASE will host a VC Panel on investing in Green Tech tomorrow at the Crow Canyon Country Club, in Danville, CA.  (A very green venue for a Green Eventsmile_wink).

The panelists are:

  • Marianne Wu, Partner, Mohr Davidow Ventures
  • J. Christopher Moran, Vice President, General Manager, Applied Ventures
  • Paul Chau, Partner, WI Harper
  • Peter Henig, Managing Partner, Greenhouse Capital Partners
  • Mark Harris, Relationship Manager, Silicon Valley Bank

Agenda:
6-6:30 pm: Networking and Hors D’oeuvres
6:30-8 pm: Panel discussion and Q/A

For details see the SVASE site, or head straight to registration.

See you there!

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One Day Left for Early Bird Rate to Launch: Silicon Valley 2008

I’ve pretty much said everything there is to say about Launch: Silicon Valley 2008, a joint event of SVASE and Garage Technology Ventures.

The presenting startup applications are in, being evaluated, and thirty of them will debut on June 10th @ the Microsoft Mountain View Campus.

There is another important deadline now: Monday is the last day you can register at the Early Bird rate, which represents a $50 discount.

See you there in June! smile_shades

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DemoCrunch 2008

This year’s TechCrunch 50 Conference is planned to coincide with DemoFall, the (other) premium startup Launch event.

VentureBeat attempts to (well, sort of) explain it with scheduling, but make no mistake, this is a fairly open move against DemoFall, to establish TechCrunch50 as the premier startup launch event. There’s no question that TechCrunch can pull in just about the entire VC community – in fact given the audience pricing, $2000 early bird, and $3000 regular, it’s hard to believe anyone but VCs can afford to attend. Well, VCs and students, as those with a student ID can get in for $149.

The presenting companies will not be charged – that’s a huge differentiate vs. Demo. As I said before, you almost have to be already funded to be able to afford Demo’s fees. I leave it to you to decide which one is more startup-friendly.smile_wink

Of course they want a real launch show, so the one hard condition is that your product /service will have to be new (unseen) at the Conference. Several commenters are already complaining that they are launching before September, which automatically disqualifies them.

I have a solution for you “early birds”: come join us at Launch: Silicon Valley 2008 jointly presented by SVASE and Garage Technology Ventures. Five of last year’s 29 presenters received venture funding, in aggregate of $30M. That’s not $140M, but not too shabby, eithersmile_regular.

How to participate? If by June 10th, 2008 (the day of the event) you will have a product or service available, but have not been out in the marketplace for more than a few months, then send an Executive Summary of no more than 2 pages to Launchsv@svase.org. Submission deadline: May 9th, 2008. (Garage Technology offers a useful Writing a Compelling Executive Summary guide.) Last year’s 30 (actually, 29) presenting startups were selected from 170 submissions. For details – and attendee registration – check out http://www.launchsiliconvalley.org/.

See you there!

Related posts: bub.blicio.us, Valleywag, Jason Calacanis, SheGeeks, ValleyWag, News.com, Silicon Alley Insider, : WinExtra, CenterNetworks, mathewingram.com/work, BoomTown, The Drama 2.0 Show, Geek Gestalt, /Message

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SVASE VC Breakfast with Ann Winblad of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners

After a long break I’ll be moderating another SVASE VC Breakfast Club meeting next Thursday, April 3rd  in San Francisco.  As usual, it’s an informal round-table where 10 entrepreneurs get to deliver a pitch, then answer questions and get critiqued by a VC Partner. We’ve had VC’s from Draper Fisher,  Kleiner Perkins, Mayfield, Mohr Davidow, Emergence Capital …etc.  This time we”ll have the honor of welcoming Ann Winblad, Partner, co-Founder of the first exclusively software-focused venture firm, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.

These breakfast meetings are a valuable opportunity for Entrepreneurs, most of whom would probably have a hard time getting through the door to VC Partners. Since I’ve been through quite a few of these sessions, both as Entrepreneur and Moderator, let me share a few thoughts:

  • It’s a pressure-free environment, with no PowerPoint presentations, live demos, Business Plans…etc, just casual conversation; but it does not mean you should come unprepared!
  • Follow a structure, don’t just roam about what you would like to do, or even worse, spend all your time describing the problem, without addressing what your solution is.
  • Don’t forget “small things” like the Team, Product, Market..etc.
  • It would not hurt to mention how much you are looking for, and how you would use the funds…
  • Write down and practice your pitch, and prepare to deliver a compelling story in 2-3 minutes. You will have about 8-10 minutes, the first half of which is your pitch,  but believe me, whatever your practice time was, when you are on the spot, you will likely take twice as long to deliver your story. The second half of your time-slot is Q&A with the VC.
  • Bring an Executive Summary; some VC’s like it, others don’t.
  • Last, but not least, please be on time! I am not kidding… some of you know why I even have to bring this up. Arriving an hour late to a one-and-a-half-hour meeting is NOT acceptable, but we’ve had too many such incidents, so here’s a new rule:  if you’re late by more than 20 minutes, you will not be allowed to join the session.

Here’s the event info page, and remember to register – the previous event with Hummer Winblad sold out in advance. 

See you in San Francisco!