Tag Archives: Founder

Charles Geschke, co-founder of Adobe, dies at 81

Charles Geschke may not be as famous as many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, but he is really a legend of technology and software. With John Warnock, he cofounded Adobe in 1982 and he is an exception in the group of founders as he was in his early 40s when he left Xerox to create the company which developed Postcript, PDF, Adobe, Photoshop and so many more products. He died on April 16, 2021.

I had read about Geschke (and Warlock) in a good number of books and blogged about him here:
In the company of Giants in November 2008
A success story: Adobe Systems – John Warnock and Charles Geschke in March 2009

I found yesterday this very interesting short video that you should watch (or read the transcipt below).

Here is the transcript: “when John and I started Adobe we had a sort of simple thought in mind in terms of how we wanted to organize the business

we wanted to build a company that we would like to work at and we sort of used that principle in terms of how we defined the management structure, the operational organizational thoughts that we had about how to put the company together and part of that recognition was that we had constituencies that every business has that need to be balanced

we had our shareholders we had our employees we had our customers and of course the communities in which we operated and if you think about running a business all four of those constituencies are mildly in conflict what’s good for one may not be good for the other and to be successful as a business and to retain the kind of quality employees that you want to have it’s extremely important that you continually monitor how those four constituencies are being served and keep them in balance

a couple other principles people would often ask as they worked at Adobe

well what will it take for me to enhance my career and both John and I would tell them well the first thing you have to figure out is how to fire yourself by hiring someone to work for you who can do your job better than you do and there’s no alternative but to get promoted once you do that

and the second piece of philosophy which is frankly the most critical one building particularly a high technology business is to tell every engineer and every manager that your job is to hire people who are smarter than you are as it’s a much larger population from which to choose and those turned out to in fact have been extremely important in building a business

and again I want to comment that without my relationship with John and our partnership it’s hard to imagine that we could have achieved what we did over the past twenty seven years and we’re extremely pleased with this award and the opportunity to have served our industry

thank you very much

the really cool thing about this award is it’s from engineers we’ve gotten entrepreneur awards before but they’re from business guys and getting award for entrepreneurship from engineers is very very cool

Chuck and I when we started the company weren’t on a get-rich-quick scheme we were frustrated at Xerox and our major frustration is we knew we could invent great technology but no one would ever use it and it would never see the marketplace and I think our major motivation in starting Adobe and continuing with Adobe was to make stuff that people would use a lot of people would use and I think inside of every engineer is that basic need to have your stuff used so that was the primary motivation behind what we did

the other thing in the hardest thing about building a business and keeping a business sustained and going on is continuing to innovate and we’ve never figured out how you institutionalize innovation innovation is a very sort of remarkable thing that sometimes happens sometimes doesn’t but the best you can do is build an environment where people are happy they’re doing an adventure they’re trying to create and hopefully in that process great things will happen”

Coursera files to go public (#750)

After Deliveroo yesterday, here is Coursera’s cap. table. It’s #750 in my long list of startups (see here my most recent analysis – data about 700+ startups).

Coursera and Udacity are probably the most famous MOOCS companies and I could not be surprised if they contributed to create the edtech category. Coursera just filed to go public on Nasdaq so its numbers are available.

Revenues of $293M, with a loss of $66 million in 2020. A lot of venture capital since its foundation in 2011, $464M in total from Kleiner Perkins (and legendary partner John Doerr, and NEA.

Founded by two Stanford professors, specialists of artificial intelligence, Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, age 43 and 34 at the time of foundation. They are not managing the company anymore. No information about Koller’s shareholding probably because she owns less than 5% of the company and has no executive role.

Coursera founders Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller are computer science professors at Stanford University

Source : NPR

Deliveroo plans to go public

There was a lot of buzz today about Deliveroo announcing its IPO soon. By the way Coursera, the edtech company just announced it too and I will post about it next. So I had to build its cap. table and thanks to the openness of the British register of companies, I could do it (at least partially) even before the company filed its IPO document.

Interesting data I think about the company growth, its funding and the founders stakeholding. £1.3B invested to cover £1.1B loss, 2’500 employees in 2019 and £1.2B revenues in 2020. Among the best European VCs (Index, Accel) plus Amazon, Fidelity, DST, T.Rowe Price as late stage investors. What else?

PS (March 19): a former colleague mentioned an article saying that early investors would have made “60’000 per cent return” on their investement. At the same time, I discovered about Coupang in South Korea which looked similar to Deliveroo. So I also checked the multiple return for seed investors in Coupang. Here is first its cap. table.

So for Coupang, the initial price per share was $0.02, and I assumed a $35 at IPO, which makes a 1750x multiple.

For Deliveroo, I assume a price per share of £900 with a series A price at £8.36. It is true there were also seed shares at £1,5. This would be a 600x (or 60’000 per cent, not an annuela return though)

So Coupang is even better than Deliveroo…

Airbnb files to go public – the last giant?

Airbnb just filed to go public. Finally! It maybe the last IPO of the recent giants (and not the latest only), these giants which emerged in the 21st century, such as

and of course is the cap.table, not that far from what I had tried to guess in 2017 in www.startup-book.com/2017/03/13/what-is-the-equity-structure-of-uber-and-airbnb/

A Fury of Software IPO Filings

After many, many IPO filings from biotech startups in 2020 (I counted 20 out of the 43 I followed and made cap. tables of), the end of August had 8 filings from Software companies (and only 15 in total). I do not think there is any rational here (except maybe Palantir as a trigger), but I decided to have a look at these 8 companies.

These are
BigCommerce (Australia)
Palantir Technologies (see my previous post here)
Asana, Sumo Logic, SnowFlake (Silicon Valley)
Unity Software (Denmark), Jfrog Ltd (Israel)
AmWell (Boston)

You can have a look at some cap. tables in the pdf (pages 633, 636-42) but more than the individual data (also below at the end), it is the (limited) stats which I find interesting:

The data deserve some explanation and also deserve to be compared with the averages of the more than 600 startups studied in the pdf (pages 644-659).

These “young” startups took 12 years to go public, this is much more than in the (recent) past and they used amazing amounts of venture capital, in the hundreds of millions. Even the series A, the 1st round, is huge, about $10M. Their sales are big too (more than $100M for all of them) with a mediam value of $150M. Their losses are not small with a median value of $100M…

Now If we look at shareholding, investors own about 45% of the company, not more than in the past (despite the huge fund raising), IPO shares are pretty small (about 4%). Common shares (mostly employees) is about 35% and you should also notice that these startups have hundreds not to say thousands of employees. As a side comment non-founding CEOs are not the norm and have about 3.5% of the company (CFOs have about 0.7%)

The founders keep about 14%. They are about 2 per company, with a median age of 35 (mean is 33 so slightly lower than the overall 38.

I think all this is pretty interesting and feel free to have a look at overall stats in my post earlier this year: data about equity in 600+ startups.

Equity List August2020


Palantir files to go public

I am not sure this was worth a post as there is nothing really surprising with Palantir IPO filing that can be found here on the NASDAQ website. Still, this is Palantir, the secretive software company cofounded by Peter Thiel, Alexander Karp & Stephen Cohen (as well as Joe Lonsdale and Nathan Gettings)

Thiel, Karp, Lonsdale & Cohen (Gettings cannot be found online)

So I did my favorite exercise, building a tentative cap. table. Here it is:

What are the striking facts: the high level of sales, losses and fund raising. The startup, neither its founders are not young anymore… That’s it. Or feel free to comment!

Equity sharing in startups – a presentation

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to present a video conference on equity sharing in a startup, between founders, investors and employees. I’ve done it many times in the last few years like the one Slideshare here, but I had never recorded it. It’s now done:

As archive, the Slideshare presentation…

The other links

600 capitalisation tables: https://www.startup-book.com/2020/04/06/updated-data-in-equity-of-600-former-startups/

Universities and equity ownership in startups : https://www.startup-book.com/2013/11/05/how-much-equity-universities-take-in-start-ups-from-ip-licensing/

Startups and titles : https://www.startup-book.com/2019/12/11/titles-in-start-ups/

Penny Schiffer’s Tweet : https://twitter.com/PennySchiffer/status/718323492006076417

Slicing pie : https://slicingpie.com/

Pie calculator : https://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/fd0n/35%20Founders%27%20Pie%20Calculator.htm

Two additional lists of references I just found thanks to Penny Schiffer: Useful resources for (present and future) investment analysts — Part 1 and Part 2

Two new British startup cap. tables: Autonomy and Bicycle

I recently published an updated version of a database of capitalization tables of 600 (former) startups. I obtain the data most of the time from the IPO prospectus of the company (that is the document the company publishes when it is listed on a public stock exchange, and in general Nasdaq.

These documents are an amazing source of information of all the business components of the companies even if I focus only on the shareholding and funding history. They are sometimes a little frustrating though as they do not cover the full history of the company, but only 3 to 5 years in the past so it is not simple to get the founders’ data for example.
Some countries do however provide access to the full company data, often for a fee like in France. A few cantons in Switzerland (Basel, Zurich) and the United Kingdom provide it for free and this is just great.

I have done some research for Revolut and Graphcore recently. Today, I revisited the data I had built for two British companies: Autonomy founded in 1996 and had gone public on Easdaq in 1998 and Bicycle Therapeutics, a biotech company with links to EPFL (Lausanne, Switzerland) founded in 2009 and public since July 2019.

The IPO documents did not provide enough for me about the founders and early rounds. So here are my new tables:


Bicycle from the IPO data

Bicycle from the UK register data, the updated cap. table, the funding rounds and its growth over time:

The funding rounds

The growth of revenues and jobs

Graphcore shareholding is really strange!

Graphcore gave me concerns. How is it possible that the two founders, Simon Knowles (58) and Nigel Toon (56), two serial entrepreneurs, who founded Icera Semiconductor in the past (sold to Nvidia in 2011 for $435 million or $367 million depending the sources – after having raised $258 million) and Element14 (a 1999 spin-off of Acorn – or its new name – sold to Broadcom in 2000 for $640 million), each owns only 4 shares of the startup? Are they so rich that they don’t need more? !!

All this follows my recent discovery that the UK gave open access to all company and in particular startup data. I began with Revolut a few days ago and now Graphcore. There had to be something wrong. The startup could not have only investors as shareholders. And then of course, I had forgotten the ESOP, the employee stock-options. So my only explanation is that the founders are part of this too and have a minimal number of shares. Still intriguing!

Data about equity of 600 startups – comments (6)

Sixth post of comments on the 600 startup data. Today, it’s about the valuation of startups.

I had touched the topic on page 615 of the pdf. Here is the data again.

Be aware that these numbers are not typical of traditionnal companies. They show that startups going public are of a speculative nature, with a promise of very high-growth in the future. The multiples are very high and in the case of earnings, in fact most startups do not make a profit at IPO – about one out five!

Interestingly Silicon Valley does not have the highest multiples, but Europe is behing the USA.

The tables give the PS ratio (price to sales – ratio between valuation and sales) and PE ratio (price to earnings – ratio between valuation and profits) and the number of startups taken into account each time. The following curves show the PS values by 5-year periods and by year.

If you are lost, here are slides I have used in the past and if you want to get the excel file, send me an email.