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Kara Nortman Was Just Promoted to Co-Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures. Here’s What it All Means

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Today we’re announcing that my partner Kara Nortman is becoming Co-Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to welcome her to her new role.

How Valence Aims to Provide Better Access and Funding for Black Founders & Executives

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“I gotta say it was a good day.” I’m so fricking pumped today. Really, truly. Yeah, Valence announced > $5 million in funding led by GGV and Upfront. That IS a big deal, but I’ll get to that. But Kamala Harris was picked to be the Vice Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party.

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Why Has Seed Investing Declined? And What Does this Mean for the Future?

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Seed investments are down by any measure (funds, deals, dollars) over the past 3 years in deals < $1 million AND in deals between $1–5 million. What gives? Over the past month a colleague ( Chang Xu ) and I sifted through data on the venture capital industry (as we do every year) and made a bunch of calls to VCs and LPs to confirm our hypotheses.

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Hard Decisions Require Empathy

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In the past two weeks we have entered perhaps to most surreal experience in any of our lives. I think intuitively many of us believe it may be a more lasting impact than just “60 days at home,” which is why we almost have a nervous laughter when we call (Zoom!) somebody we haven’t spoken to since before the crisis and acknowledge how bizarre we all feel right now.

Building Healthy Innovation Ecosystems for Your Projects

Speaker: Nick Noreña, Innovation Coach and Advisor, Kromatic

In this webinar, Nick Noreña will walk through an Innovation Ecosystem Model that he and his team at Kromatic have developed to help investors, heads of product, teachers, and executives understand how they can best support innovation in their own ecosystem. He'll also go over metrics we can use to measure the health of our ecosystems as we build more resources for innovators.

Funding in the Time of Coronavirus

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I am due to speak at the SaaStr conference next week: Wednesday, March 11th at 10:45 AM. I had originally signed up to talk about the “VC Market Trends” overall but it seemed inauthentic to speak about VC funding without addressing the virus in the room. So I wrote a brand new deck outlining some Upfront views on what we may see in the funding markets ahead.

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A Bigger Truth About Restaurant Food Delivery

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Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash I was listening to Dan Primack’s podcast on Pro Rata and he was interviewing Senator Klobucher who is now publicly and vocally speaking out against Uber purchasing Grubhub and has tried to mobilize against this. Her argument is that if Uber buys Grubhub (which itself once merged with Seamless) it would mean that Uber Eats / Grubhub would control half the market and that with DoorDash the two together would control 90% of the market.

Remind Me Why I Love You? (Why “In Person” is Everything)

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You had an amazing meeting with an investor. Your product demo crushed. The dialog was great. They told you how much they loved your space. The meeting was only supposed to last 45 minutes but you ran 90. The assistant tried to end the meeting twice but was shoooshed away. You race back to the office to tell everybody how well it went and you wait for the follow-up call to have a partners’ meeting or talk about term sheets or at least dip into due diligence. One week. Two weeks. Oh, fork.

My Commencement Speech?—?Life at Your Crossroads

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My Commencement Speech?—?Life Life at Your Crossroads Photo by Justin Luebke on Unsplash Crossroads Cal Poly Pomona! What’s up!?! I’m so grateful to be up here addressing you today. Today you’re either here to graduate or support somebody graduating. A graduate is at his or her first major crossroad in life. You are faced with decisions about which road to take. That is the theme of my speech today. My 8 tips for the crossroads you will face.

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Managing Your Startup Board?—?A Short Presentation

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Managing Your Startup Board?—?A A Short Presentation I was invited to do a keynote presentation at the Khosla Ventures CEO Summit this week in Sausalito. It was an amazing gathering of some of the most ambitious early-stage CEO’s looking to make a dent in fields related to healthcare, biology, AI and other transformative fields. It’s encouraging to know that there are still great VC firms like KV that are looking to make these short of big bets on shaping the future.

My Thoughts on the Current Market: on 20-Minute VC

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Several years ago I made an appearance in a burgeoning new podcast called “20 Minute VC,” which by now needs no introduction. Harry was gracious enough to invite me back so this past week we recorded an episode discussing the current market environment. Please download the episode here , if for no other reason than to make Harry happy :) but I’ve also included some quick notes below including a few notes I didn’t share in the podcast (and vice versa by the way?—?if

How to Improve Your Odds of Getting to Yes with a VC — “Land and Expand”

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If you’ve read any of my ongoing series on fund raising from venture capitalist (episode 1?— ?controlling controlling your psychology ) you no doubt have heard me say that raising capital is a sales & marketing process.

A Deep Dive into What Has Really Changed in Venture Capital

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I’ve heard a lot of people question whether there is too much money in venture capital chasing too few great deals. “We’re We’re in a new tech bubble!” some have pronounced. Valuations are out of control” is the mantra of others. Others believe that new business models are emerging that could replace venture capital all together.

How Many Investors Should You Talk to in a VC Fund Raise? And How Do You Prioritize?

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This is part of a series of advice for founders who need to raise money from venture capitalists. The first in the series is “ Lemons Ripen Early ,” which also has a link to other posts. The most important advice I could give you before you set out in fund raising mode is to understand that fund-raising a sales & marketing process and needs to be managed. Somehow many first-time founders equate “sales” with something that is beneath them.

High Functioning vs. Low Functioning Startup Boards

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I’ve sat on many boards over the past 2 decades and seen my share of high-functioning boards and low-functioning boards. Here are some observations I have from this exposure: If a company moves from strength-to-strength with predictable outcomes, easy financings, low staff turn-over, limited competitive threats then the composition of the board probably doesn’t matter as much.

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How to Talk About Valuation When a VC Asks

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One of the hardest things about the fund-raising process for entrepreneurs is that you’re trying to raise money from people who have “asymmetric information.” VC firms see thousands of deals and have a refined sense of how the market is valuing deals because they get price signals across all of these deals. As an entrepreneur it can feel as intimidating as going to buy a car where the dealer knows the price of every make & model of a car and you’re guessing at how much to pay.

The One Thing That Great Leaders Understand

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One Thing That Great Leaders Understand I was scanning Twitter this past week and I came across these great Tweets by Michael Seibel at Y Combinator. When I was young I thought management was about distribution/delegation of responsibilities. I now realize it is truly about the maintenance of morale and motivation. Morale and motivation are moving targets that require consistent and proactive effort to maintain.

One Simple Way to Eliminate Distractions in a Board Meeting

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Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash Several members of your executive taken hours to prepare board materials so that you can inform your board of how things have gone since you last met 3 months ago and you have 3 hours together to make sure they have an accurate picture and to make sure you have their input into how to proceed in the months ahead. Given how seldom you come together you’d imagine you’d have the boards’ full attention during this time. Most likely you’d be wrong.

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How to Be a Good Board Member

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I have been writing a series on how startup boards get selected, who sits on them and what to avoid. I will also delve into how to prepare for them, how to make the meeting effective and how to best follow up to make sure people take action. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash In response to one of my posts I saw this great Tweet by Bilal Zuberi and it resonated.

Three Bitcoin Billionaires Share Their Story of How They Moved Early into the Asset Class

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At the recent Upfront Summit my partner Stuart Lander had the opportunity to show some California Love and interview three of the wealthiest Bitcoin owners, each of whom were some of the earliest owners in the asset class and who haven’t sold any of their holdings. It’s an extraordinary story ranging from Jaime who studies cryptography in college to Bryan who was early in selling products on Silk Road to Steven owns 179,000 Bitcoin worth more than $2 billion.

Why Meg Whitman is Betting on Quibi as“The Da Vinci Code of Content”

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Every year, a personal Upfront Summit highlight is getting to sit down with experts in a field I care about. Sometimes that’s venture capital generally (like last year’s conversation with Reid Hoffman ) and sometimes it’s in a space where I’ve invested (like mobility and city innovation with Bird’s Travis VanderZanden , one of our portfolio founders.)

How to Out Amazon, Amazon

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There has always been tension between CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies and the retailers who sell their products to consumers. If a consumer will pay a fixed price for a product or service then the battle over who gets the margin in any sale is between the person who merchandises a product and the person who manufactures it. This is an age-old marketplace tension where leverage often determines the value captured. This is true whether it’s physical products or media products.

What Did I Learn From the First VC Check I Ever Wrote?

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I became a VC 12 years ago in 2007 when the pace of deals was much slower. I had just left Salesforce.com where I was VP, Products, after they had acquired my second startup. As I was trying to figure out the role I wanted to play in the VC world I decided I wanted to focus on businesses that were building deeply technical products to solve problems for business users.

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Bevy is Emerging as a Leader in Software for Building Virtual Communities???with $15 million to?

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Bevy is Emerging as a Leader in Software for Building Virtual Communities?—?with with $15 million to Prove It The venture capital world has started firing up a few cylinders again and looking for businesses that it believes will help us all succeed in ways that resonate with new ways of working as we begin to return to work. It’s clear things have changed for good and the need for managing remote communities of employees, customers and partners has become ever more important.

How to Run an Effective Networking Dinner

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Photo by Juliette F on Unsplash Networking is a critical part of relationship building and there is no event more valuable to building relationships than the proverbial “breaking of bread” with people. I personally run many group lunches & dinners and I attend even more so I’ve developed a set of tips I often pass along in how to make these the most effective they can be.

The Truth About the Scooter Economy?—?An Insider’s Perspective

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The Truth About the Scooter Economy?—?An An Insider’s Perspective “Bird Zero” that are custom designed by the company There is a story arc of the electric scooter market that took the world by storm in 2018, was second-guessed late in the year and has quietly re-emerged as a powerful force of growth where few really appreciate the speed and scale of what has happened. I’d like to share some insights with you.

This is the Dumbest Op Ed I’ve Read in a While

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I understand that Adam Grant is a fairly popular professor at Wharton and has a book that some people loved called “Originals” (for me it interesting but not mind blowing, and I have some first-hand knowledge of some of its inaccuracies). Having read his latest op-ed on email I know why I erred towards the side of of not loving his book as much as some did. I think his advice is this op-ed is bananas.

Who Should be on Your Startup Board?

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One of the things that founders have the most angst about is whom they should have on their board and at what stage of the business. This is smart because amazing board members can be transformative with important advice and access and can also help attract other great board members (and team members). Bad board members can make business very unpleasant. Do you need a board when you first start you company?

How I Promise You One of the Most Meaningful Days of Your Life

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I know the title “I promise you one of the most meaningful days of your life” sounds grandiose but I mean it and I hope you’ll read through to the end and choose to take one small, totally free action, that will change your life and likely those of others.

Understanding What’s Going on in #LATech

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Upfront Ventures was created 20 years ago as one of the original VC funds in Los Angeles. Back then only 15% of our dollars were invested locally whereas today 50% of our dollars are invested in LA. 10 years ago we found ourselves trying to persuade LPs and VCs that it was worth spending more time getting to know the LA market and now the most common refrain that I hear from them is “there really is something going on in LA.” Don’t we know it. It’s not just Snapchat, although there’s that.

What Happens When Startups Turn from Their Innovation Stage to Operational Excellence?

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Nearly every successful tech startup I’ve observed over the past 20 years has gone through a similar growth pattern: Innovate, systematize then scale operations. An alternate outcome that I also unfortunately observe in some cases are companies who had extreme early success with an initial product adoption but failed in key areas that limited the growth and therefore the ultimate financial outcomes.

The VC Inclusion Clause #MovingForward

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Upfront Ventures has a deep-seated commitment to equality in funding & building diverse teams across all ethnicities, nationalities and genders. We do this not just because it’s the right thing to do but also we believe it will help drive large and differentiated returns. In 2017 we began inserting an “Inclusion Clause” into our term sheets because we believe that the culture one establishes at the earliest stages of one’s business will set out the course of how it will grow and develop.

Venture Capital is About Human Capital

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Gregg Johnson, CEO of Invoca For the first 5 years or so after I became a VC I didn’t talk much about what I thought a VC should be excellent at since frankly I wasn’t sure. I was mostly doing my job and trying to figure out how to be better every day. After a decade on the job I’ve started to speak more openly when newer industry colleagues now ask me what I’ve learned. The number one advice I give is “stop trying to be too smart”.

I Know Everybody Told You to Send Your Fund-Raising Decks as a Link.

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I Know Everybody Told You to Send Your Fund-Raising Decks as a Link. Here’s Why You Should Just Send the Deck I know you have your document sending tool to send your fund-raising deck to VCs and track who read your deck, which pages they read and how much time they spend on each page.

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How Much Should You Raise in Your VC Round? And What is a VC Looking at in Your Model?

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There’s a quick litmus-test conversation any early-stage VC will have with the founder and it’s one that you should be as prepared for as your elevator pitch. It goes something like this … VC: “How much money are you raising?” Founder: “$8–10 million” VC: “What’s your current burn rate?” Founder: “$250k / month.” VC: “So at a constant rate of burn rate you’d be raising enough for 2.5–3 3 years. Why are you raising so much?” Founder: “Um. Let me check my plan.”

How to Prepare for a Board Meeting to Make Sure you Crush It

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Most board meetings are administrative updates that accomplish very little other than inform board members about the performance of the company since the last board meeting.

What Should You Send a VC Before Your Meeting?

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One of the hardest things to know when you’re new to fund raising is what you’re supposed to send to an investor, when and will they keep your information confidential. As a VC and former entrepreneur let me offer you some advice. This is part of a series on how to improve your fund raising game. The first post & the full outline if you click the link.)

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Why Great Executives Avoid Shiny Objects

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The modern world is filled with constant distractions. Only those with maniacal focus on results and a willingness not to engage in every activity achieve extraordinary results. As executives we’re all seemingly accessible at any moment to anybody via email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Text. We are over-intro’d and at the same time under-resourced in terms of staff to handle the barrage of in-bound requests.

The Case For & Against Cryptocurrencies (for those tired of all the noise)

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In more than a decade of writing about the Internet and tech-enabled businesses I’ve learned that mobs don’t do nuance well. If you read the headlines or talk with zealous friends you may well think cryptocurrencies are either our savior from bureaucratic, ossified governments or are purely speculative Ponzi schemes. The reality is that cryptocurrencies can be both and can be liberating and corrupting at the same time.

Why Confidence is So Important in Fund Raising

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I was recently with an entrepreneur and talking with him about his fund raising process. He was in a later-stage financing round and was talking with many investors. Some started asking him for very specific analyses to be completed on his data and wanted his company to crunch the numbers. I told him he shouldn’t bother and that it was likely a junior person at the firm whose job is was to find holes in the data / narrative.

All The Questions You Wanted Answered about Bird Scooters and Their Recent $300 Million Funding

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My friend Michael Broukhim, founder & co-CEO of FabFitFun and I recently had a catch-up meeting for 3-miles on the Santa Monica “Bird Trail” No company has ever elicited so many questions by friends, colleagues, entrepreneurs, fellow VCs and journalists as has Bird, the company that pioneered the electronic scooter as a service market.

What Can You Learn From Ring’s Astounding Success?

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Many people will write the history on why Ring became an enormously successful company and why it became a real-world unicorn in a world when many startups are anointed that merely on paper. Since I had a ringside seat to the company before it really existed all the way through the end I thought I’d offer my version and what I think it means for our future.

Why Female Founder Office Hours is So Important

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If you haven’t yet heard about Female Founder Office Hours it is an initiative you should be aware of whether you’re male, female or any other gender identify. The idea is simple enough: several female VC partners at top funds will hold 1-hour meetings with 40 promising female entrepreneurs looking to get advice on their business and pitch in a friendly, non-judgmental, safe environment.