Stop looking at your paycheck as a measure of success.
Stop counting followers as a measure of how loved you are. Stop using likes as a measure of the love you give.
Stop using investor dollars as the metric of success for your business. Stop using square footage to feel good about where you live.
Stop using pounds to measure your health. Stop using sexual partners as the measure for interpersonal relations.
Stop counting attendees as the way to evaluate how well your event went.
Stop using nights out as a measure of happiness. Stop filling up your calendar.
Stop using unread emails as the measure of how much work you have to do.
Stop pushing yourself on people that aren't psyched to know you. Stop giving time to people you aren't psyched to know.
Stop showing up late and frazzled all the time. Stop rushing to meet arbitrary deadlines. Stop worrying.
Stop and look up once in a while when you're in the city. Stop looking the other way when someone treats you badly.
Stop asking for more than you offer to others.
Stop asking for permission.
Stop assuming you know what people will say or do and just let them do it.
Stop looking at your phone when you're walking from place to place, eating dinner with friends, or riding in a cab. Stop checking your e-mail first thing in the morning.
Stop toiling away in relative anonymity.
Stop accepting without questioning.
There's been a lot of innovation in the startup fundraising world in the last couple of years--Angellist, Second Market, accelerators, etc. One thing you can't innovate around, however, is building a human relationship.
That's why I really liked two posts on the topic of investor/founder relations that I read this weekend.
"The way to seem most formidable as an inexperienced founder is to stick to the truth. How formidable you seem isn't a constant. It varies depending on what you're saying. Most people can seem confident when they're saying "one plus one is two," because they know it's true...
If you're not a master of negotiation (and perhaps even if you are) the best solution is to tackle the problem head-on, and to explain why investors have turned you down and why they're mistaken. If you know you're on the right track, then you also know why investors were wrong to reject you. Experienced investors are well aware that the best ideas are also the scariest. They all know about the VCs who rejected Google. If instead of seeming evasive and ashamed about having been turned down (and thereby implicitly agreeing with the verdict) you talk candidly about what scared investors about you, you'll seem more confident, which they like, and you'll probably also do a better job of presenting that aspect of your startup. At the very least, that worry will now be out in the open instead of being a gotcha left to be discovered by the investors you're currently talking to, who will be proud of and thus attached to their discovery. "
Paul's point is all about being upfront and honest. Just tell me, as an investor, what's going on, in plain and simple language. Tell me what you've figured out and what you haven't. Be honest about where you are in your round. Only the following things can happen:
a) I'm cool with the truth. That's the best scenario... I go into this investment eyes wide open, we work on the issues together, and if it doesn't work, I've got no one to blame but myself.
b) I'm not cool with the truth and I don't want to invest. You have one less investor who didn't see the same vision you did bothering you with distracting e-mails and discussions about strategies you don't agree with.
Whereas, if you pull one over on me and then things aren't as they seem once I'm in, I'm going to lose all faith in you as a person, let alone a founder, because you weren't honest. I won't support you in the future and won't put my full effort in as an investor. Instead, I'll likely be trying to find ways to cut my losses.
That's why it's so important for investors and entrepreneurs to spend time getting to know each other. I had someone pitch me recently who started their e-mail out with an indication of how fast the round was going. I asked if they were optimizing for bringing on people they want to work with or for speed to close--because I wouldn't be interested in a founder that was looking for the latter.
Hunter Walk's post on demo days really does a good job of summarizing how I feel about this:
"...I’m hoping we can see how each other work, maybe even work together by hopping off a whiteboard to talk through a design issue, product strategy or distribution hack you’ve been struggling to solve. I’m more interested in the way you think, communicate and lead, than your Keynote pitch skills. A termsheet should be just another milestone within a long relationship."
The goal isn't to get the best first round valuation--it's to gather all the folks you need to built a successful company over time. Strong relationships built off honesty accomplish this.
A Conference, a Dad, an Idea, a Team, Funding, and a Launch: Brooklyn's Own Tinybop is Live on the App Store!
I’m thrilled to announce Brooklyn Bridge Ventures’ investment in Tinybop, a new Brooklyn-based studio building the most creative and thoughtfully-designed educational apps for kids. Their goal is to be a brand that parents and teachers trust to produce high-quality, fun, and inspiring mobile products that enable learning and encourage kids to explore the world around them.
They also went live in the App Store today with their first in a series of apps, The Human Body. Kids can investigate what we’re made of and how we tick in a dynamic working model of the body brought to life with interactive animations and particle physics.
Tinybop raised a seed round of about $800k last fall. Joining me in the investment is fellow Brooklyn native, Mitch Kapor, as well as KEC Holdings and Stickerbrush—but this wasn’t an easy round for Founder Raul Gutierrez to close. When he pitched, he was the proverbial "guy with an idea." Most VC funds wouldn't touch a pre-product app company. About 10 minutes into our meeting, however, I realized Tinybop was so much more than that and I committed to participating.
This isn’t a story about a hot app built by two twenty-somethings at a hackathon, only to be funded the following week. Raul is a 46-year-old dad, experienced in entertainment, media, and startups. He spent a year and a half researching the educational app market and discovered it was (and is) a market that really lacks for quality brands. He investigated successful models, like Toca Boca, downloaded every top educational app on the App Store, and played alongside his two sons, carefully observing and absorbing their feedback.
That's one of the things I noticed about Raul that played an important role in convincing me that he could pull this off--it's his insight into how kids see the world. It seems like he never stopped seeing the world from a kid's eyes. You can see it in his photos--they're often of his kids just doing their own thing. They're not selfies on a ski lift admiring mini-versions of himself. They're the kind of photos where you can tell that he's just as lost in what might be going on in their heads as they are in that moment of curiosity and exploration.
The other skill that I got to see over time was his keen sense of how to build a powerful brand on small dollars. You’ll witness, as Tinybop pushes out their first and second apps, a level of creativity, refinement, and detail like you’ve never seen in a seed-funded company.
Check out this video of kids answering the question "What do you wonder about?" that they made as a promotion:
His approach to team-building is an extension of his approach to building a product: bring in thoughtful and creative people who are invested in making an inspiring product line.
Another major factor in my decision to invest was that Raul was working out of Studiomates, a creative co-working space built by Tina Roth Eisenberg. When someone you first meet at a conference tells you that he’s going to build the best-designed kids apps you’ve ever seen, you need some assurance that a) he knows what that even means, and b) he has access to the talent that can make it happen. The level of talent and supportive collaboration among the community at Studiomates checks both boxes and continues to ensure that everything he puts out is top notch. That’s also why this is the second company (the other is Editorially) I’ve invested in from that network.
Tinybop also reminds me that my job as an investor is to ask one thing, over and over again: “How can I help?” That’s what I asked Raul a few years ago when I first met him at Brooklyn Beta. And that’s what encouraged him to ask for a meeting with me over a year later. I thank Cameron Koczon from Brooklyn Beta for bringing Raul back to my door late last summer.
I’d also like to thank my former colleague, Phin Barnes at First Round Capital, for introducing Tinybop to Mitch Kapor. Through this investment, I met Mitch for the first time, and I admire his efforts in the education space and his interest in turning Oakland into the “next Brooklyn.”
What the team at Tinybop has produced, as I hope you'll check out, is one of the most creative apps I've ever seen. Everyone at Tinybop--Youngna, Robert, Kelli, Melissa and Tuesday--should be really proud of what they've accomplished. And, to think, this is just the beginning--they'll have more apps about all sorts of things kids wonder about. Congrats on all your hard work getting out to the public Team Tinybop! I'm looking forward to new apps and new chapters.
I came to the realization yesterday that I have too many things.
They're not fancy things. Many of the things are things that I have that go with other things that are things I no longer have--phone cords in historic form factors. Some are necessary things in unnecessary numbers. I appear to have three or four dozen forks, yet seating for only eight (fourteen if you count the couches and the popason chair.)
I have a popason chair--king of the "seems like a good idea at the time" furniture.
I have an unopened box of 1989 Upper Deck baseball cards.
I have thirty year old Matchbox cars.
I have a set of coasters given to me by an ex--eight years ago. She now has a husband and two children. I've never used those or any other coasters in my apartment. Did I mention they have our faces on them?
I have more "gym shirts" than you can imagine. These are shirts that fell out of the normal rotation bc of a hole, stain, or because the startup I got them from went out of business.
Yesterday, I fell in love with the idea of getting rid of it all--of anything I didn't actually need. I imagined the full Graham Hill lifestyle--only the bare necessities, folded away in a living space just large enough for me to live. It felt very freeing.
Does anyone want a flatbed scanner from 2004?
Are you a size 34 34? I have new pants for you.
Facebook is an incredible thing in many ways. It has over a billion people on it--a reach unlike anything in the social software space we've ever seen. The numbers of photos uploaded, likes per second, page views, etc are absolutely staggering. Its sheer growth is truly an accomplishment.
Yet, when I think about its impact on our lives and what it enables people to do, I can't help but be underwhelmed. What do we actually do on Facebook? We don't meet new people. We don't create anything.
For the most part, Facebook is a mirror. We're watching ourselves and our small little worlds getting reflected back at us--and hopefully getting signals from others of their acceptance. It's like a reality television show where you watch your own life and those of the people you already know.
In the grand scheme of the continuum of existence--how long can that last? How much of an impact can that actually have?
With Twitter, I discover. I follow people I don't necessarily know and get inspired and informed. With Instagram (a FB acquisition, but not part of the core experience) I create and get inspired. My Instagram photos are probably the most creative digital things I've ever done. Vine, for lots of people, is similar.
Google is my connection to everything--it feeds me information--answers just about any question I might have. With Google Apps, I run not only my business but my non-profit kayaking group on it as well. I connect to and meet important business contacts on LinkedIn. Dropbox is where I keep my important files in the cloud. Even Youtube is more than just a site full of funny cat clips. There are people running TV shows on it--creating inspirational and impactful content on its platform. Wikipedia is probably the greatest thing humans have ever collaborated to produce online.
Facebook, on the other hand, isn't the origination platform of much of anything.
Facebook, despite the fact that I use it everyday, is probably the online network I could most easily do without. It provides me the least amount of critical and impactful value--and it feels like, compared to a year ago, it provides less and less value because of its efforts to monetize.
Despite everything it theoretically knows about me, Facebook ad units disrupt my feed. They are glaringly in the way, lowering the quality of the signal even further. They do not inspire me and they interfere with the social signals and information I get from my friends. When I see a friend like a new band, it's somewhat interesting information. When I see a Facebook friend like Delta airlines, I'm left to wonder whether they really like Delta or whether or not Delta held some contest to give away free airline tickets to one random liker. That dilutes the value of the like signal and of Facebook itself.
Facebook used to have network pages where you could explore people you didn't know. Joke all you want about "poking" but for college kids, for a time, Facebook was actually a way to meet new people. Now, they made it terrifically hard for people who don't know you to contact you. Despite the fact that strangers can be annoying, it's actually the networks that involve strangers that provide some of the most important value to people. OKCupid and Match provide lots of value to folks--taking strangers and turning them into life partners and parents of your children. That's kind of important to some people. Same with LinkedIn. Today's strangers on LinkedIn are tomorrow's standout employee, new business partner, biggest investor, or new boss.
We don't want vacation pics from strangers, but strangers play an important role in our online existance.
If you surveyed people forty years ago, at the dawn of the internet, and asked them, "If you could connect a billion people with a piece of software, what could you enable them to do?" I'll bet you they would sound pretty ambitious and optimistic. They'd probably talk about world peace, global education, or solving tough problems in the environment. Telling the world you like Pepsi or giving a thumbs up to photos of the high school friends you haven't seen, don't really care about, and would otherwise never really thought of again would have probably been pretty far down the list. Playing casual games certainly wouldn't be up there either. In fact, I think people from the past would look at the internet at large as a pretty amazing ecosystem where lots of inspiration and social good has happened, but I don't think they'd have much of that to say specifically about Facebook.
Facebook may be a terrific business and it certainly is a terrific technical accomplishment, but I don't personally find the core product any more inspirational than Yahoo!, which also is a top five most visited internet destination. Just because something gets used a lot doesn't mean we'd be that much worse off without it. If we didn't have American Idol or Dancing With the Stars, we'd just have some other crappy variety show--and Facebook feels much the same way to me.
Extrapolate that out to the long view, and you wonder what Facebook is 5, 10, 20 years from now. Is it just the next Yahoo!--a lot of traffic and some ads to support it? Should tomorrow's Yahoo! be worth $80B+ in market cap today?