Techstars and Kauffman Fellows are once again running the Venture Deals online course that Jason Mendelson and I put together several years ago.
If you’re an entrepreneur who wants to raise capital and grow your business, this online course teaches you the basics you need to know for working with VCs. And, if you are starting off as a VC or a lawyer for venture capital deals and you want a refresher on the core issues in a term sheet, this online course is for you.
Venture Deals is a seven-week, collaborative, “learn-by-doing” online course where you will watch videos from us along with doing project work as virtual teams. The workload for the course is about four to six hours per week, includes several live video AMAs with me and Jason, and covers the following topics.
- Week 1 – Introduction of key players/Form or join a team
- Week 2 – Fundraising/Finding the Right VC
- Week 3 – Capitalization Tables/Convertible Debt
- Week 4 – Term Sheets: Economics & Control
- Week 5 – Term Sheets Part Two
- Week 6 – Negotiations
- Week 7 – Letter of Intent/Getting Acquired
The course is a great accompaniment to our book, Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist, which is about to come out in a new and improved 4th Edition that will be available by the time the course starts on September 8, 2019.
It’s free, and you’ll be joining over 23,000 people have taken the course in the past. Sign up for the course here!
I didn’t read much last month, but I got an email this morning from someone who mentioned that I’d like Greg Egan’s Permutation City. I read it in April when I was in Japan on my Q219 Vacation with Amy but never really blogged much about it.
All three of these books are outstanding. They are all near term science fiction, with extraordinary world-building dynamics, and complex time narratives.
While Neal Stephenson is possibly the best world builder in the entire fiction genre today, both Blake Crouch and Greg Egan are in the same category. Some people find Stephenson’s world-building overwhelming, but as a fast reader, I’ve learned how to skim through parts while absorbing the essence of what is going on. Interestingly, this technique isn’t required for Crouch but occasionally is needed with Egan.
All three books incorporate the concept of recursion in very foundation ways. Everyone studying computer science learns the magic of recursion very early on, often through the factorial example, listed below for fans of Scheme, just to bring back memories of 6.001.
(define (factorial x)
(if (= x 0)
(* x (factorial (- x 1)))))
While Crouch hits you over the head with it in the beginning, Egan spends about 100 pages getting you ready for it. Stephenson probably takes about 200 pages before you start getting a feel for it. But, by the last quarter of each book, you are deep, deep, deep, deep, …
I thought each book ended extremely well. For all three, I found myself staying up late reading, which is always a sign the book has grabbed me since my bedtime since I was ten has been 10 pm.
While summer reading time is almost over, you’ve still got a few weeks for one of these if you want to explore the literary equivalent of a Sierpiński triangle.
Today’s Give First podcast features Harry Stebbings of the 20 Minute VC and a partner at Stride.vc on committing to building a network & giving first.
Harry is probably best known for his podcast, The Twenty Minute VC, the world’s largest media asset in venture capital, with over five million downloads per month. He’s talked with amazing VCs and entrepreneurs on over 2,800 shows.
When he was 13, Harry watched “The Social Network,” the movie about Facebook, and it inspired him to become an entrepreneur and investor. At 18, he set up the Twenty Minute VC podcast.
I was interviewed on Harry’s 65th episode in 2015. It was fun to travel back in time and listen to it. And, I love Harry’s Google Glass picture.
Harry is on episode 11 of the Give First podcast. We’ve made it to double digits which I’ve heard is a milestone for a lot of podcasts that stall out before that. Next step – triple digits. If you missed the last few along the way during my blogging vacation, they include John China (SVB), Sherri Hammons (The Nature Conservancy), and Rebecca Lovell (Create33).
I’m back from a month off from blogging. Like any good vacation, I feel refreshed.
Blogging has been a daily habit for me during the week. I occasionally miss a day and take the weekends off, but the routine has been, in general, a good one for me around my writing.
Amy has an equivalent activity called “morning pages.” This is a private blog using an ancient technology where she uses a writing stylus on bound parchment. She uses it in a similar way that I use my blogging, which is to get words flowing each day, ideas out of my head, and gear up the engine for the rest of the day.
When we got to Aspen earlier this summer, I felt like my writing was stale. The daily blogging was a chore. My efforts around other writing were challenging and I found myself procrastinating on anything that I’d categorize as medium or long-form writing. Basically, I continued to crank out hundreds of emails a day, but anything proactive that was longer than a few paragraphs had become a chore.
In early July, I decided to take a month off from blogging. I did the same with writing and reading. I knew I had an intense work stretch coming and I wanted to give myself some space to get the work done without putting extra pressure on myself. So, I took a vacation from writing and reading.
I feel refreshed. I continued several of my other habits, including meditating and running, both of which are feeling great. But most importantly, I’ve been able to spend a reasonable amount of time with Amy even in the midst of the intense work. While I’m periodically not present in the moment, which elicits a “Brad, be a person” comment (or equivalent) from Amy that snaps me back to reality, the intensity of the work hasn’t overwhelmed me.
I love the Bezos Day One philosophy, so I’ll just end with it. It’s Day One again today.
Over the years, I’ve written about my belief in the importance of giving back to your communities and #givefirst. In this spirit, one of the key organizations my partners at Foundry Group have helped create and nurture is Pledge 1%.
In 2007, we were a founding member in the predecessor organization to Pledge 1%, called Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (or EFCO). EFCO started as an experiment here in Boulder, not unlike Techstars and Startup Week/Weekend that got their start in our backyard. In 2014, Pledge1% Global launched as a joint effort between Foundry Group, The Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado, The Salesforce Foundation and The Atlassian Foundation which we helped seed financially and continue to support.
While all of the Foundry Group partners have been involved, Seth Levine has been spearheading our engagement and the transformation from EFCO to Pledge 1% (he, along with key members of the teams from Salesforce, Atlassian and Ryan Martens are the founders of Pledge 1%). At a partner offsite at the end of last year, we were reflecting on some of the gifts from Foundry Group through our Pledge 1% involvement, which included:
- The Community Trust of Boulder – We believe that a rising tide raises all boats and wanted to do our part to support our local community here in Boulder and Colorado.
- United Way Foothills – After the Colorado flood in 2013 we decided to step up and fill a gap in funding from Foothills United Way.
- Museum of Boulder – Our city has a rich history on numerous dimensions. We now have a museum in downtown to be proud of.
- BCH Foundation Mental Health Campaign – Mental health is a major issue in our society, as well as in entrepreneurship. We are pleased to be able to help expand the mental health resources in our community.
We had some extra money left in our Pledge 1% Colorado account from distributions over 2018 and decided that, rather than saving it up for another larger gift, we’d give a series of modest gifts to a handful of local (and one non-local but nearby) organizations as a surprise holiday gift. Those organizations were:
- Access Opportunity
- Boulder Community Foundation Leadership Fellows
- Colorado FIRST Robotics
- Community Food Shares
- CU Science Discovery
- Defy Ventures Colorado
- Donors Choose – Sphero Match
- Emergency Family Assistance Association in Boulder (“EFAA”)
- I Have A Dream – Boulder
- Our Center
- Ranger Projects Yellowstone Forever Institute
If you are a co-founder at a startup, leading a company, or an employee at a company and want to learn more, check out the Pledge1% (or here if you’re in Colorado). Or email me or Micah Mador if you want to get involved.
When I was in Boston a while ago (it was very cold, so it must have been January), I had a wide-ranging conversation with Eric Paley. This was before the IPO Summer of 2019 when all conventional valuation metrics have entered the land of “suspension of disbelief” which is short-term good and long-term well-we-will-see-…-eventually
One of our conversational threads was about how to value companies. We ended up talking about using Gross Profit, instead of Revenue, to do valuation analysis.
We’ve been doing this for a long time at Foundry Group. Since we invest across a number of different themes, we’ve had to deal with very different revenue and gross margin profiles since the beginning, whether we realized it or not.
For the purpose of clarity, in my world GP (gross profit) is a dollar amount while GM (gross margin) is a percentage.
Revenue is often equated with Net Sales, which is true in many cases, but Net Sales is actually more precise a measure than Revenue in situations where you have Gross Sales or Gross Merchandise Value as the “top level” revenue number. Also, I often see GM listed as GM%, which is fine. Some people also refer to GM as Gross Profit Margin.
This is regularly confused, even in accounting texts, so depending on which business class you took, you are going to call it a different thing. Oh, and if you use Quickbooks, you’ll probably refer to Revenue as Income, unless you have the current version of Quickbooks where this has finally been fixed. Isn’t accounting fun?
Even if a lot of people realize that SaaS companies have a different gross margin profile than hardware companies, many don’t acknowledge it when playing the valuation game. And, this logic – or lack thereof – applies to marketplaces where GMV is different than Net Revenue which is different from Gross Profit, or Adtech companies which have yet a different “Top Number to Gross Profit” calculation. And, it gets really exciting when a company has multiple revenue streams that include services and derivative transaction-based revenue (say, BPS in a fintech company.)
Today, I’m seeing almost all entrepreneurs and investors in growth companies talk primarily about revenue and growth rate. They tend to adjust the multiples to try to align with a group of comparison companies, but these comps rarely have a similar supply/demand economic associated with the equity of the company in question. And, when the comps are mature cash flow positive public companies, the multiple math diverges even more from anything particularly rational.
I’ve started encouraging the companies I’m involved in to focus on Gross Profit and the growth rate associated with their Gross Profit, rather than Revenue. Try the exercise and see how you compare to the companies you think you should compare to. And think about how much more value you could be creating with the same Revenue number but a higher Gross Margin percentage …
I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Kraus, Sue Heilbronner, and the work they do through MergeLane.
Recently Elizabeth started a platform for the next generation of venture capitalists called Fund81. It includes a podcast, which has both a public section for everyone and a private section for the Fund81 members.
Elizabeth recently interviewed me for Episode 13 where we talked about maintaining mental health in the fast-paced venture capital world while supporting portfolio companies, colleagues, friends, and family wrestling with mental health issues. The public section follows.
Elizabeth and Sue – thanks for everything you and the team at MergeLane do for entrepreneurs and now other VCs.
I’m lazy blogging this week as I get ready to go on vacation for the July 4th holiday. So, here’s another set of videos to watch, which is the entire Street Level Startups series from Colorado Public Television. I’ve watched them all now and they are a great history of how the entrepreneurship scene in Colorado has evolved recently, along with a bunch of fun highlights of people and companies.
Street Level Startups: The New Gold Rush
Street Level Startups: When an Idea Strikes – Stories of Inspiration
Street Level Startups: Three Phases of a Startup
Street Level Startups: Mentorship & Integration
Street Level Startups: Startups to Watch
Xiao – nice job weaving in a Mary Oliver quote at the end.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?“
I’m honored that I get to work with you.
I love weird Internet memes.
Recently, I plumbed the depths of this one with my friend Quinn. Go to your Google browser and type “did ab” and see what comes up for you.
If it’s “Did Abraham Lincoln Invent Pancakes” then the Internet is working as expected.
Of course, our next move was to go see if there was a website at https://didabrahamlincolninventpancakes.com/. A week ago there wasn’t, but there is one there now. Bwahahahahahahaha.
Did Abraham Lincoln Invent Pancakes? is now a permanent part of the web. I wonder what Google is going to do with it now?