I have already mentioned Andreessen Horowitz (a16z for its friends) in previous posts. First I have been very impressed by Horowitz’s book, The Hard Thing about Hard Things and second, the VC firm is close to Peter Thiel (check When Peter Thiel talks about Start-ups – part 4: it’s customer, stupid!). I also published data about Netscape.
I have also mentioned how impressed I have been by a few articles published by The New Yorker, I wonder why I have not subscribed yet. I just finished reading Tomorrow’s Advance Man – Marc Andreessen’s plan to win the future by Tad Friend. Again this is a long, deep and fascinating analysis. When I printed it, I had a 25-page document. But it is worth reading, I promise.
I also read another article about Andresseen Horowitz, which is also interesting even if less profound: Andreessen Horowitz, Deal Maker to the Stars of Silicon Valley from the New York Times. Both articles try to show that a16z might be changing Silicon Valley and the venture capital world (or they are creating another bubble and will disappear when it bursts)
I really encourage you to read the 25 pages, but here are some short excerpts:
Venture capital became a profession here when an investor named Arthur Rock bankrolled Intel, in 1968. Intel’s co-founder Gordon Moore coined the phrase “vulture capital,” because V.C.s could pick you clean. Semiretired millionaires who routinely arrived late for pitch meetings, they’d take half your company and replace you with a C.E.O. of their choosing—if you were lucky. But V.C.s can also anoint you. The imprimatur of a top firm’s investment is so powerful that entrepreneurs routinely accept a twenty-five per cent lower valuation to get it. Patrick Collison, a co-founder of the online-payment company Stripe, says that landing Sequoia, Peter Thiel, and a16z as seed investors “was a signal that was not lost on the banks we wanted to work with.” Laughing, he noted that the valuation in the next round of funding — “for a pre-launch company from very untested entrepreneurs who had very few customers” — was a hundred million dollars. Stewart Butterfield, a co-founder of the office-messaging app Slack, told me, “It’s hard to overestimate how much the perception of the quality of the V.C. firm you’re with matters—the signal it sends to other V.C.s, to potential employees, to customers, to the tech press. It’s like where you went to college.”
[…] The game in Silicon Valley, while it remains part of California, is not ferocious intelligence or a contrarian investment thesis: everyone has that. It’s not even wealth: anyone can become a billionaire just by rooming with Mark Zuckerberg. It’s prescience. And then it’s removing every obstacle to the ferocious clarity of your vision: incumbents, regulations, folkways, people. Can you not just see the future but summon it?
[…] Most venture firms operate as a guild; each partner works with his own companies, and a small shared staff helps with business development and recruiting. A16z introduced a new model: the venture company. Its general partners make about three hundred thousand dollars a year, far less than the industry standard of at least a million dollars, and the savings pays for sixty-five specialists in executive talent, tech talent, market development, corporate development, and marketing. A16z maintains a network of twenty thousand contacts and brings two thousand established companies a year to its executive briefing center to meet its startups (which has produced a pipeline of deals worth three billion dollars). Andreessen told me, “We give our founders the networking superpower, hyper-accelerating someone into a fully functional C.E.O. in five years.”
[…] A16z was designed not merely to succeed but also to deliver payback: it would right the wrongs that Andreessen and Horowitz had suffered as entrepreneurs. Most of those, in their telling, came from Benchmark Capital, the firm that funded Loudcloud, and recently led the A rounds of Uber and Snapchat—a five-partner boutique with no back-office specialists to provide the services they’d craved. “We were always the anti-Benchmark,” Horowitz told me. “Our design was to not do what they did.” Horowitz is still mad that one Benchmark partner asked him, in front of his co-founders, “When are you going to get a real C.E.O.?” And that Benchmark’s best-known V.C., the six-feet-eight Bill Gurley, another outspoken giant with a large Twitter following, advised Horowitz to cut Andreessen and his six-million-dollar investment out of the company. Andreessen said, “I can’t stand him. If you’ve seen ‘Seinfeld,’ Bill Gurley is my Newman”—Jerry’s bête noire.
Time to read more, right?
Now that business is for real, the level of stress increases…
to this level
It’s also time to move…
to new serious offices
or is it?
You will also check that Silicon Valley is not about software and web or mobile apps only…
though I am not sure it is good news, if not for us…
at least for our heroes
Now that they have money, our heroes need to spend it. Will they follow the “team” structure of Episode 1 when hiring: “There is always a tall skinny white guy, a short skinny asian guy, a fat guy with a ponny tail, some guy with crazy facial hair, and then an east indian guy.” Unclear from who they interviewed…
Biocartis might have been a Swiss success story but most of the company is now based in Belgium. Probably not a decision of investors (as people think when company move) but from management! One of the founders is from Belgium and an impressive serial entrepreneur: Rudi Pauwels. Here is what you could read in the IPO document:
Still the numbers are interesting. The company has raised more than €200M before its €100M IPO this week. Despite such huge amounts the founders have kept about 5% of the company. Its IPO prospectus is available on the company web site. It has signed deals with Philips, Hitachi, Biomérieux, Abbott, Janssen and Johnson & Johnson and counts Swiss-based Debiopharm among its mains shareholders. Here is my usual cap. table:
I have to admit episode 10 was full of s…- I have never seen a VC stealing ideas neither a major corporation suing a start-up. Whatever SV is fun. So when you have the choice between sell or die, should you choose?
– “You should pursue your dream, not for profit, not for valuation or material wealth but for the good of humanity”.
– “Easy to say when you are a billionaire”
– “Billionaires are people too.”
Here SV uses the strange real episode from Tom Perkins.
Let us listen (in fact read here!) Monica: “Every successful company can look back at a defining moment early on where they would have died, had it not been for the courage and the tenacity and maybe the insanity of one visionary person who put it all on the line, even though it seemed like a huge mistake at the time, a moment where all the metrics and the numbers did not mean anything; it was all about the emotion, it was about belief, rational or irrational and I think, I hope, that I was just like that.”
There is something well-known and little known at the same time in the start-up world: a deal is never guaranteed until the money is on your bank account. Our heroes will learn it the hard way. Now they are less arrogrant with the VCs…
but then what about being stolen ideas during due diligence…
and what about the cost of IP litigation. I will let you discover it…
I did not know much of the background of the Samwer brothers beyond the names associated with them: Alando, Jamba, the European Founders Fund, Zalando and Rocket Internet. So I was surprised to be mentioned (thanks Kevin!) a book by Oliver, one of three brothers, America’s Most Successful Startups.
America's Most Successful Startups: a thesis by Oliver Samwer and Max Finger (1998)
Even if now more than 15 years old, it is a good book at least from the first 30 pages I have read so far. It reminds me the advice from Steve Blank. Just one example about founders: “The first thing you have to make sure when you put tagether a team of founders is that all founders share the same vision and the same values. The group can be heterogeneous, but the founders cannot have a different vision or a different set of values, because they will probably be partners for many, many years. You absolutely need to make sure that the goals of the founders are all aligned. Each of the founder has to be very sensitive what each of the other founders’ objectives are. You have to recognize these and try to incorporate them, because otherwise you will have people from day one heading in fundamentally different directions. Only if you get a team of really great people together, who share the same vision, and work together well as a team, you will create a very strong foundation for the company. Because everything in the company originates from the founding team and will grow out of that”. [Page 30]
Additionnally, concerning their roles: “Fourthly, depending on the business model, a high-tech company should typically have at least three key people: It should have a market visionary, someone who understands the market, the customer and the problem the customer has. It also has to have a product or technology visionary, who understands the product and technology and how it might be applied, but does not necessarily understand all the problems that the market has. And it needs a business execution person, because the idea itself if worth zero. It is the execution of the idea.” [Page 31]
Another interesting comment about Equity sharing: “Last but not least, the founders should hold equal stakes in the company so that they are in every respect equal partners. No matter who the idea bad and who contributed what in the founding process, the founders should split the company equally among them. Otherwise some founders will feellike second-rate founders, which produces a flaw from the very beginning and which might have a strong negative effect on the way.” [Page 31]
Finally, I also liked their point of view on what you should do when at school: “Also, you need to try actively to get an educational background and experience that supports the venture. This really has to be an active approach. You have to put yourself in a position where you get involved in startups, you have to go to the places where entrepreneurs are, you have to go to places where you can get inspired, you have to meet people of similar spirits and build a network. In school you might participate in the business plan competition, take the classes where you will write a business plan, and take the entrepreneurial track at business school. That is where the people who want to do it are. […] Through such activities you will be meeting partners and ideas incidentally.”
Time to see our old friends
and the team fighting to be “Chiefs”
Of course Silicon Valley is what it is… just have a look
or read this: “I don’t want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place better than we do.“
But reality is taking money can be dangerous: “You take money from the wrong dudes, you’ll get smoked as bad as I did.” But also never think you have the money until you have it in your bank account…
America’s movie industry have always adapted the story when an actor disappears… then the fun begins. Negotiating with VCs can be hard. “There is a linear correlation between how intolerable I was and a higher valuation…”
But then listen to Monica’s advice… A high valuation can be a very bad deal. Believe her…
And the final minute is great…
HBO’s Silicon Valley is back and hopefully this second season will be as interesting as the previous season…