1. 08:25 12th Jul 2013

    Notes: 44

    Reblogged from bijan

    Tags: startupsTVstart-upsVC


    Over the last week, Microsoft announced that it was shutting down MSN TV which was came from their acqusition of WebTV Networks back in 1997.

    And during that same week, Samsung acquired Boxee.

    I thought I would share some thoughts since I worked at WebTV before and after the acquisition…

    Great and insightful post Bijan. Congrats to Avner & the Boxee team… truly a great guy.


  2. thegongshow:

    AllThingsD has a nice piece this morning on the Fab financing (raised $150MM at $1B valuation). I think it’s nice because it reports the facts, but then also does a nice job of capturing the general tech scene sentiment around both the deal and the company. The TL;DR on AllThingsD’s piece is:…

    Couldn’t agree more with Andrew here. CEOs, of small and large companies, these are your core tasks and there will always be plenty of distractions as you run a business, but leadership is about focus.  This calls to mind this great business quote from John Paul Dejoria (Paul Mitchell Systems, Patron Tequila) from an Inc. article that I read the other week while on a plane for a work trip: 

    "I could go insane if I obsessed over every little detail…. My management philosophy is to pay attention to the vital few and ignore the trivial many."


  3. Insightful post by Dave McClure here: VC (r)evolution, geeks got next.  If you are involved in the start-up/innovation ecosystem, this is mandatory summer reading!  Not sure what the VC version of the above is… got to think there could be a few great tries on Draw Something. 

    Insightful post by Dave McClure here: VC (r)evolution, geeks got next.  If you are involved in the start-up/innovation ecosystem, this is mandatory summer reading!  Not sure what the VC version of the above is… got to think there could be a few great tries on Draw Something


  4. VC

    Here’s a link to the just released VC demographic survey from NVCA and Dow Jones as summarized by Dan Primack from Fortune.  Some of the findings aren’t terribly shocking (89% of VC investors are male, 87% are Caucasian, 49% have an MBA, and the top universities represented are Harvard and Stanford at 10% each), but there are some good nuggets of information that provide hope for more diversity (incidentally enough, Eric Ries wrote a fantastic piece on racism and meritocracy within the startup/VC ecosystem over the weekend that is about the best piece I’ve read in a long time - please read it).  

    For me, the silver lining of the NVCA census and hope for more diversity in the VC and startup world comes from three data points:

    • For those who have been in VC for less than five years, there is increasing diversity as 77% are Caucasian.  As to whether this will translate into a permanent shift in another generation as this current crop of mostly white GPs retire, who knows.
    • As it relates to gender diversity, there is also a younger skew for women in the VC industry.  Among those surveyed, the under 30 years old cohort have 28% women and the 30’s age category have 27% women.  Same story as for racial and cultural diversity, let’s see if this shift persists in a generation up towards the GP ranks.
    • The healthcare/life sciences and clean tech industries have the greatest percentage of women, at 18% and 15% respectively.  For two of the most important industries in America (along with education), this is a great thing.

    ps. the picture used above is apropos - a lot of blue dress shirts in the VC game!


  5. Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.

    Benjamin Franklin.


    This is a great quote from Ben Franklin around individuals and relationships.  I was catching up last week with a cool healthtech entrepreneur, Sundeep Bhan of NYC based Medivo (who recently raised a nice Series A $7M+ financing round led by  Safeguard Scientific).  We talked about a bunch of things, professional and personal, and about healthIT/HealthTech start-ups and innovation primarily (shocking I know).  We both agreed there was a lot of activity was happening in this space, and it is a good time to be fundraising in this market if you’re a healthtech entrepreneur (as evidenced by this list of digital health companies receiving at least $2M in funding in 2011 as compiled by Rock Health, who has done some cool work in terms of compiling resources and data in this emerging sector of healthcare).  However, just because you’re a start-up or a healthtech entrepreneur, that doesn’t guarantee fundraising is a given or easy.  Sundeep shared his thoughts about how there are 3 simple rules that apply to fundraising, and they also apply in much of the same way to relationships.  Having written about fundraising before in a previous blog (Shall We Dance) and likening the approach to middle school kids and dynamics around dancing/relationships, I was keen on teasing this thread out a bit further (with Sundeep’s blessing).  

    You basically have three key and simple considerations that apply to fundraising (and relationships) and need all three to work in your favor to optimize for success.  If any single one consideration isn’t in your favor, it can result in failure for fundraising or a relationship.


    1) YOU: You really can’t take this personally, but look - it could be just that YOU and the investor don’t click.  A lot of early stage investing decisions are made based on team, and it’s important that beyond the necessary things YOU need to bring to the table (background, passion, hustle, etc.), that YOU click with the investor.  Same as in relationships, you must first off know what you’re looking for or what you like (some type of criteria around what you’re interested in) in order to get started.  Once you got that figured out, for some people that connection with another happens right off the bat.  For others, it takes a few tries, a few more dates to figure each other out.  And sometimes, YOU need to be prepared for the "it’s not YOU, it’s me" line and roll with it.  As Ben Franklin basically says in the quote above, if you’re thinking about how the relationship “would be great if only s/he would change <fill in the blank>”, then you might be better served moving on. 


    2) IDEA: You need to be working on a compelling IDEA and opportunity.  You must be able to clearly communicate what the opportunity and IDEA you have is.  This clear articulation of vision, approach, and value proposition is essential if you are going to obtain funding.  As it relates to relationships, the IDEA is basically the DTR (note - I’m not advocating when is the right time to even have the DTR, because as most know - even suggesting a DTR conversation can cause a relationship to explode).  It’s key to explore what kind of IDEA you have for a relationship at this stage: exploring, casually dating, exclusively dating, marriage?  For both fundraising and relationships, it’s best to be open and as honest as possible, and not hide information or thoughts.  Life is short, and I believe everyone owes it to themselves to be honest with themselves first, and then to those around them.  You shouldn’t oversell or undersell YOURSELF or the IDEA but you should be honest in your dealings to set the proper expectations. 


    3) TIME: this is probably the most important consideration, and worth analyzing across two dimensions.  First - is it the right TIME in your NewCo’s life and development to be raising money, i.e. do you have just the proverbial cocktail napkin business plan, or have you already gotten two others full-time on board, have raised a little but of family/friends money, and have an alpha or beta to show?   Second, is it a friendly TIME from a macro perspective to be raising money in your NewCo’s specific industry/sector?  Right now, in 2011/2012 it’s a great time to be in the HealthTech space as there is a lot of excitement and opportunity in this area from an innovation perspective.  In mid/late 2000, no matter how great YOU and your IDEA was, if it was in the internet/web space, you were not in an ideal macro environment for fundraising.  As it relates to the relationship, as they say - it takes two to tango.  You need to ask if YOU yourself are ready for a relationship at this TIME in your life (i.e. are you focused/obsessed on your career first, are you coming out of a serious break-up, etc.).   And then the other person also needs to be at the right TIME in his/her life for the same relationship IDEA with YOU. 

    Well, I guess there is another consideration that also impacts things from a fundraising and relationship success perspective - luck.  Of course, there are those that argue that one makes their own luck while others believe luck is random.  I personally think it’s a bit of both… so no matter what, good luck, in all endeavors, personal and professional!


  6. Tech cartoon funny

    This is an excellent treasure trove of videos from some smart tech entrepreneurs and investors. Definitely worth checking out - a variety of topics covered here by a range of individuals, perhaps the most comprehensive (VC, startups/entrepreneurship, the tech industry, etc.) by Marc Andreessen at Stanford. 

    A lot of good content here - but be wary, this definitely can be a time sink!


  7. image: Download

    This sobering infographic of the US health care cost conundrum and its various components is via my friends at the West Health Investment Fund (WHIF), a new $100M investment fund for health and technology start-ups who are working on products or services that will reduce health care costs in America. The fund is associated with the West Wireless Health Institute (WWHI) in San Diego, CA and already has made several investments.  Although not a traditional VC per say, given the tight relationship with WWHI, there are substantial benefits and value add that WHIF and its managers bring to the table given their domain expertise and network, just like a standard VC.  Hopefully this is just the small start to something big that will help spur health care innovation and reduce the large and alarming figures in the infographic.

    This sobering infographic of the US health care cost conundrum and its various components is via my friends at the West Health Investment Fund (WHIF), a new $100M investment fund for health and technology start-ups who are working on products or services that will reduce health care costs in America. The fund is associated with the West Wireless Health Institute (WWHI) in San Diego, CA and already has made several investments.  Although not a traditional VC per say, given the tight relationship with WWHI, there are substantial benefits and value add that WHIF and its managers bring to the table given their domain expertise and network, just like a standard VC.  Hopefully this is just the small start to something big that will help spur health care innovation and reduce the large and alarming figures in the infographic.


  8. Silicon Valley guy

    If you follow tech, start-ups, angel/VC investing, or Silicon Valley (a “typical” SV guy is hilariously depicted above circa early 1980’s) you might have caught wind that Michael Arrington of TechCrunch recently started a micro-VC $20M fund called the CrunchFund and will be investing.  While he is also blogging and writing about tech start-ups, although he doesn’t claim to be a “journalist”.

    I really liked this piece from the Wall Street Journal’s Kara Swisher, not necessarily for the portrayals of Arrington, Silicon Valley, and the angel/VC community along Sand Hill Road… but more for her points around truth in journalism, objectivity and ethics.  Yes - journalism and reporting is a business, and yes - the web and technology (such as Tumblr) has made it relatively easy these days for individuals to publish content and have a platform for their thoughts.  

    But it’s hard to truly believe Arrington when he claims he holds himself to “higher standards of transparency and disclosure” than a “normal” journalist.  Most of us don’t have a blogging platform that attracts ~3.6M monthly visitors.   Many early stage tech start-ups would kill to have 10% of that monthly traffic.  Most early stage tech start-ups will see their site traffic increase when a nice piece is written about them on TechCrunch.

    If for a moment, we are to believe Arrington’s claim about holding high standards of transparency and disclosure, I guess even in this case that doesn’t translate or equate to being ethical.  In journalism, I believe being ethical equates to telling the objective truth, if that is feasible (Robert Pirsig might disagree), and if not - telling as close to the objective truth without bias as possible.   And maybe I’m obtuse, but I just have difficulty believing that will be possible for TechCrunch given the association with Arrington, even if he’s not the day to day managing editor… indeed, the closing paragraph of this recent TechCrunch post about CrunchFund really does sum up this point: most, if not all of the people who work at TechCrunch are there because of Michael Arrington!      

    Finally, it comes off as bombastic the VC who reasons in the article (off the record) that he participated as an LP because “everyone else was doing it”.  I guess his mother never told him the line about “don’t jump off the bridge just because everyone else is doing it”.  Was it easier (and who knows, potentially smart) for VCs to signup as LPs in Arrington’s CrunchFund than decline to participate?  Perhaps.  But as they say: following can be easy - it’s harder to lead and think for yourself.


  9. Past, Present & Future: an update on cch…

    Fork in the road

    This post is overdue by a few days, but it’s been a whirlwind of a year since I joined the VC game with Spark Capital and even more so the last few weeks and months. So I wanted to share with you all on what the present and future holds for me, personally and professionally, starting with a recap of the past.  


    As most of you know, I finished 3 years of grad school last May 2010 - hard to believe it’s been a year+ since that time of tremendous learning and growth.  It was so much fun, after graduation I stayed in the HBS environment by doing research for a few months with Professor Herzlinger around health care reform, bundled & global payments, and ACOs and writing a few HBS cases and notes based off that research.  I started at Spark Capital last July 2010 and since then, it’s been quite a ride and I’ve found the experience to be just as enriching and stimulating as my time in grad school.  My prior work experiences in the healthcare industry, starting from my undergraduate days conducting telemedicine and teleradiology research at Johns Hopkins Hospital (the #1 hospital in the US for 21 straight years) to healthcare consulting at Towers Perrin to working in corporate finance & strategy at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care (the #1 health plan in America for 7 straight years) has impressed upon me that America’s largest industry is supremely complex, fragmented, and in need of significant change: political, cultural, financial, and technological.  At Spark, the team is focused on finding innovative and disruptive companies at the confluence of tech, media and entertainment.  This actually is quite a broad charter as everything is impacted by technology these days.  Yet within this broad context, each member of the Spark team has their own unique primary passion, be it advertising or financial tech, consumer web, e-commerce, or content discovery.  Mine obviously is healthcare.  And my time in grad school and at Spark have further validated my passion to do whatever I can to help spur healthcare innovation, and specifically how the convergence of healthcare and technology (web, mobile, and social media) can be used to improve the US healthcare industry and get more Americans engaged with their health.  While there are a myriad of opportunities within healthcare to advance this overall cause, I was pleased to find a start-up team, FitOrbit that aims to help improve health through a fitness and diet platform that leverages technology in a meaningful way (web and mobile today, social tomorrow) that Spark funded in December 2010 and where I’ve been actively involved since.        


    Healthcare from an innovation and VC perspective has always gotten short shrift compared to tech from both those in the know and the general public (for a myriad of reasons) despite healthcare/life sciences more than holding it’s own compared to tech venture investing in the past decade.  Regardless, no one can doubt that there is now a flurry of activity at this convergence of health and technology, from both start-ups and investors alike, as my partner and mentor at Spark Todd Dagres had correctly anticipated.  There are now healthcare specific incubators popping up (and rightly so) such as Rock Health in San Francisco and Blueprint Health in New York with the mission to help health & tech entrepreneurs grow their ideas into hopefully meaningful companies that will help transform healthcare.  But we are just at the beginning - while there has been an increase in activity at this intersection in the past year, I believe it will pale in comparison to what the next five to ten years will see.  Historically we’ve seen more healthcare natives (doctors, hospitals, etc.) doing the majority of innovating in this sector.  Now there is an influx of traditional tech or entertainment/design entrepreneurs tackling healthcare problems and launching start-ups.  In the last two weeks alone I’ve had conversations with two folks who fit this bill - Charles Huang (yes, the other Charles Huang of Guitar Hero social music gaming fame) and Nadeem Kassam (founder and chief alliance officer of Basis).  This is a good thing as there is a balance, a yin and yang between technology and healthcare that will ultimately benefit innovation and society overall.  I’ve been fortunate to have met quite a few of these entrepreneurs and investors across the country while in grad school, but especially this past year at Spark who share this belief wholeheartedly and are excitedly and willingly engaging in this emerging ecosystem.  And yet, healthcare is so vast and broad: there are many opportunities to innovate across the care continuum (general health, i.e. diet & fitness to healthcare delivery & disease management), business models (B2C, B2B, B2B2C), and policy/collaboration perspectives (CMS, FDA, and FCC) for someone to engage in.  


    As I’ve contemplated the past and present over the past months, two primary considerations for me have been focus (in terms of where I devote my resources, separating the signal(s) from the noise) and personal life or work/life balance.  After much contemplation, I’ve decided to focus on my primary passion of healthcare innovation, and specifically this convergence of healthcare and technology.  In the short term, this means I will be joining my Spark Capital portfolio company FitOrbit for a few months, to dedicate 110% of my time and energy with the solid management team to plug in and do my part to help grow the company through an exciting phase in the business.  The company has seen significant growth since launching it’s innovative service in June 2009, and traction year over year has been amazing thanks to the hard work work of the founders and management team.  We expect great things in 2012 for FitOrbit, and while I have helped lay the groundwork for that future success (hopefully, to some small extent) over the past nine months from Boston, I plan to do so much more actively in LA (where FitOrbit is based) and NYC (where my fiancee Christine lives) going forward as this 2nd half of 2011 is an important and exciting stage in the company’s life where we will be rolling out an enhanced site, new features, and starting partnerships with some big companies - an inflection point if you will.  While my title is being contemplated (something notional such as VP of Business Development perhaps), those of you who know start-ups know that titles in these early stage companies are somewhat arbitrary as you wear multiple hats and roll up the sleeves to tackle whatever tasks are at hand to help the company grow.  Longer term, I’ve been in discussions with a few healthcare dedicated investment firms and organizations who share my passion for health innovation around interesting roles and opportunities for a healthcare geek like me ranging from getting more involved with the TechStars affiliated healthcare accelerator Blueprint Health (where I am already a mentor) in NYC to a few traditional VC/PE firms and also non-traditional investment VC/PE firms.  Depending on a few variables, among the important ones are geography (NYC where Christine is now and where I will be in the short term at least vs. CA where Christine is from and my parents now live) and contemplated position within a firm, I plan to formally join one of them full-time later this year or beginning of 2012. 

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the past 11+ years in Boston, it’s a city that I hold very close to my heart since I have effectively spent my adult life there and hence, really grown up and matured there (and who can beat the sports teams and their success over the past decade?!?!).  I am grateful to have many close friends from work, school, sports, and the overall community in Boston and want to thank all those I’ve been fortunate to cross paths with.  In particular, I want to thank Todd and the entire Spark Capital team for giving me a platform from which to further refine my hypotheses in the healthcare + technology innovation intersection and for the tremendous first hand learning experience from super knowledgeable guys in the tech, media, and entertainment sectors that have helped color my thinking and approach to healthcare innovation.  I plan to be back to Boston regularly in the future, as the start-up ecosystem is a close knit and vibrant one, and there are a myriad of worthwhile events and conferences throughout the year.  In the meantime, I look forward to being in NYC more regularly (splitting time onsite with FitOrbit in LA) and further exploring the innovation ecosystem there that I have visited from Boston somewhat regularly over the past year and have found to be very energetic and passionate, particularly the healthcare community.  Above and beyond that, I look forward to being in the same city with Christine for the first time in our relationship, at least for the short term and hopefully longer term as we move forward with our personal and professional lives.       

    That’s it for now… though I have a few goals to also focus on in the short term to share:

    • Get a bit healthier in terms of workouts and diet (which have suffered a tad the past years while in grad school in la-la land and then getting up to speed and doing the VC hustle at Spark, as I do have a wedding to get in tip top shape for!)
    • Take time regularly to reflect more, on topics of personal and professional interest (I have about 15+ books to read that are piling up on my desk )
    • Take time to blog more frequently.  To this last endeavor, since over the past few months I’ve spent a lot of time talking with individuals and contemplating my career, I will post a blog later in the week around career considerations (probably geared more to those interested in VC & start-ups).  And then I also hope to post a followup blog to my blue pill vs. red pill (start-up vs. MBA) piece on the topic of start-up vs. VC life.  You will understand if these posts come out a bit slower than anticipated as I’m finishing this post from my new FitOrbit office in here in LA!

    As always, drop a line whenever and hope to catch-up in person with more of you in NYC and LA in the weeks and months ahead!  


  10. Rodney Dangerfield - No Respect

    Excellent post and data analysis by Bijan from Highland Capital Partners on why life sciences venture investing gets no respect, particularly as it relates to tech/IT.  If you don’t know Bijan, he’s a sharp guy with an excellent pedigree (just look at his collection of degrees) who’s based out of Highland’s Menlo Park office.  Even more important - a thoughtful, humble and all around good guy.

    While I don’t look deeply at life sciences (biotech, pharma, med devices) per say as Bijan does, I am as most people know, a big fan of whoever is innovating in the broad healthcare space.  I’ve posted about this many times before, as recently as last week, and always try and convince my tech/web native friends to get interested and involved in healthcare (admittedly with varied success, but I think I’m starting to win a few of them over, i.e. Jennifer Lum).  So many people are hot and heavy about tech these days (and not for terrible reasons), but there is tremendous opportunity for innovation and success in healthcare too.  And we need smart tech people in the healthcare battle with us to find ways to scale companies and services.  Healthcare might not be as sexy as a DTC web/digital company like Facebook or Twitter, but as Bijan’s nice analysis from 2000-2010 shows, the fundamentals are definitely there for growth and value creation.  As they say - the numbers speak for themselves.


  11. Cool interview with KPCB partner Bing Gordon on his approach and experience working with start-ups, hiring, and leadership.  Interesting that his perspective of power vs. influence is not too dissimilar from Joseph Nye and Nick Burns around world politics and diplomacy in the 21st century and the concept of soft power (influence) employed by the US instead of hard power (military force) is more effective.  

    I especially like the point he makes regarding analyzing people for startups and hiring:

    In my world, I read résumés upside down, so I start with personal interests.  So if somebody doesn’t have believable, interesting interests, they’re not going to work in a creative business.”


  12. So turns out when you’re showing revenue growth both in greater magnitude and at a younger stage in your company’s life versus Google, ebay, Amazon, and Yahoo… well, you’re going to get ridiculous valuations.

    As a reference…

    "…less than one-third of the nation’s top software companies reached $50 million in annual sales in six years or less–and the fastest to $50 million, Novell, took three years. Microsoft crossed the $50 million barrier in eight years; Oracle, 10 years. Facebook and Zynga did it in their first full year.”

    Big question - how sustainable is this revenue growth? Groupon did $760M in 2010 (just its second full year), up 22x from $33M in 2009.   So… I wonder how many people who thought Groupon was crazy to not agree to be acquired by Google a few months back still think Groupon is crazy with these numbers.


  13. 09:28 3rd Feb 2011

    Notes: 72

    Reblogged from thegongshow

    Tags: VCjobs

    Spark Capital is hiring for 2 roles here in our Boston office, an analyst & an associate.

    For more information, see the below details from my colleague Andrew.

    Any questions, feel free to ping me if I can be helpful.

    Oh… and happy new (chinese) year!



    We are hiring for two new positions at Spark Capital.

    One new role is an Analyst position.

    We’re looking for someone to help us organize the collective knowledge of the firm and the portfolio using a combination of web services and entrepreneurial grit.

    The gig is probably most similar to a…