Harry Stebbings just released a new episode with me on the 20 Minute VC. I love how Harry uses all caps to title the episodes.
20VC: BRAD FELD ON WHY MARKET SIZE AT EARLY STAGE IS NOT HELPFUL, HIS BIGGEST LEARNINGS FROM THE BOOM & BUST OF THE DOT COM AND HOW THE BEST VCS WORK FOR THEIR CEOS
I adore Harry. I did an interview with him early on (#65) so it’s particularly fun to do an interview number that is great than this year.
We cover the following topics, among others. Plus, there is a special book giveaway and a few other gems buried in the episode.
1.) How Brad made his way into the world of venture following 40 angel checks and how that led to his co-founding Foundry Group? Why did Brad find the transition from angel to VC in the early days such a challenge? What 2 core things did he focus on when writing angel checks? How has that changed now as a VC?
2.) How did seeing the boom and bust of the dot com impact Brad’s investing mindset today? How does Brad think about investing through market cycles and the right way to think about investment cadence? Why does Brad believe that to be successful as a VC you have to be fundamentally optimistic?
3.) Where does Brad believe we are today in the cycle? Does he agree with Bill Gurley on the biggest challenge being the “oversupply of capital”? What must entrepreneurs understand with regards to market cycle dynamics and how they can and need to future-proof their business?
4.) From analysing his best investments, why has Brad come to the conclusion that TAM in the early days is really not helpful? What are the commonalities in how Brad’s most successful companies approach experimentation?
5.) What does Brad mean when he says, “don’t have fake CEO or fake VC days”? What does he mean when he often says, “run your fucking business”? What in Brad’s mind would constitute a “fake day” vs moving the needle for your business? What does Brad think is the best way for VCs to truly get to know one another? Why is, “hey let’s do a deal together one of the most hollow and fake statements in venture?”
6.) Brad has sat on some of the most meaningful boards of the last 2 decades, what have been Brad’s biggest learnings on what it takes to be a great board member? How does that change with the progression of your career? What advice would Brad give to me, having just gained my first board seat? If the VC does not support the CEO, what is the right process? Why does Brad believe the VC should work for the CEO?
7.) What is Brad’s biggest advice when it comes to learning how to say no? What advice does Brad hear most often that he commonly disagrees with? Why does Brad feel we are in a moment of peak noise in the ecosystem today? To be a great leader, what 2 skills does Brad believe you need to have?
I’ve become a huge fan of Harry Stebbings, the intrepid entrepreneur turned VC whose age (20) matches the title of his podcast (The Twenty Minute VC.) Today, at SaaStr at 1:40pm in the Hypercritical section, Harry is interviewing me about – well – whatever he wants.
Harry has done hundreds of 20 minute VC interviews over the past few years. It’s a staple of mine on my podcast listening rotation so I’ve heard a bunch of them. It’s fun to watch Harry evolve as an interviewer as his knowledge of the industry has increased dramatically and his point of view about various VC-related things has become crisp and clear. And his hustle is relentless and has led to him also doing the SaaStr podcast and joining Atomico.
All five of the Foundry Group partners have been interviewed at this point. I think our interviews are a great way to get to know us quickly since we each tell our story, our strategy, and our approach in our own words and from different perspectives. Over the past few weeks I’ve probably talked to over 100 VCs between my trip to Australia, LA, and SF. When I find myself telling our story in response to being asked, I often wish I had a short cut to point people to.
This post is now the shortcut. I’ll use Harry’s original titles so you can see how his SEO prowess has evolved.
20 VC 065: FOUNDRY GROUP WEEK 1: BRAD FELD
20 VC 066: FOUNDRY GROUP WEEK 1: SETH LEVINE
20VC: THE FUNDAMENTALS TO CREATING A SUCCESSFUL VENTURE PARTNERSHIP & THE OPTIMAL INVESTMENT DECISION MAKING PROCESS WITH RYAN MCINTYRE, CO-FOUNDER @ FOUNDRY GROUP
20VC: HOW 50% OF VCS HURT ENTREPRENEURS, HOW TO BUILD A RELATIONSHIP OF TRUST WITH YOUR VC AND HOW ENTREPRENEURS CAN DETECT VC BS WITH JASON MENDELSON, CO-FOUNDER @ FOUNDRY GROUP
20VC: WHY MANY VCS FAIL TO RAISE, WHY LP COMPENSATION IS A MASSIVE PROBLEM & WHY FUND OF FUNDS WILL BECOME MORE PROMINENT WITH LINDEL EAKMAN, MANAGING DIRECTOR @ FOUNDRY GROUP
Yeah – I don’t love the capital letters either, but there you have it.
In case you are wondering about the tone of the 100 VCs I’ve talked to, I’d rate it as very high on the anxiety meter. Some of the tone is from the macro dynamics post election, but some seems deeper and more unsettled. I don’t know what it is, but I switched my Headspace meditation pack from Motivation (which I don’t need any help with) to Anxiety, just to be proactive.
My partner Lindel Eakman just did a really fun interview with Harry Stebbings on Harry’s 20 Minute VC Podcast. You can listen to it here or subscribe to the 20 Minute VC on iTunes.
As a Saturday bonus, two of the other podcasts in my regular rotation are the Reboot Podcast and How I Built This. I listened to the VICE: Suroosh Alvi interview yesterday and it was fantastic.
The show notes for Harry’s interview with Lindel follow.
1.) How Lindel made his way into the weird and wonderful world of LPs and then Foundry? What is the origin story behind is first fund investment, Union Square Ventures?
2.) Question from Michael Kim @ Cendana: How is Lindel approaching portfolio construction for Foundry Next? What combination of GP portfolio & direct exposure diversifies the portfolio while retaining upside through individual deal performance?
3.) With the direct co-investment platform how does Lindel look to mitigate the negative signalling that can occur with opportunity funds? Does Lindel agree with Chris Douvos in stating this could lead to the ‘hybridisation of GP and LP’?
4.) Where do most prospective fund managers fail when pitching to LPs? What does Lindel look for in a risk strategy for a potential fund investment?
5.) What are the biggest problems with the LP community today? What would Lindel like to see change? What do the financial compensation plans look like for LPs?
My partner Lindel Eakman wrote a post a few days ago about his transition from Austin to Boulder and a really helpful one about how to work with him titled A Human User Interface….with lots of quirks. This prompted me to poke around for other content from the limited partner (LP) side of the LP/VC/entrepreneurship universe.
I think the first LP blogger was Chris Douvos who periodically puts up an instant classic post at Super LP. I fondly remember a meeting with Chris in NY at the end of the day when we were raising our first Foundry Group fund. I was tired and dragging a little from the fundraising, but Chris’ energy and enthusiasm around VC picked me back up in advance of dinner. He didn’t invest in our fund, but he made a strong impression on me.
OpenLP is a new site moderated by the gang at Sapphire Ventures that seems to be a collection of all the LP stuff floating around the web. They are also promoting the idea of an #openlp twitter hashtag. It does appear that they need to work on their SEO so they don’t get confused with Free Open Source Church Worship Presentation Software
The team at Notation Capital is doing a really good podcast with interviews with LPs. Sapphire Ventures is again in the mix as a sponsor and – no surprise – episode 3 is with Chris Douvos.
My current favorite podcast, Harry Stebbings 20 Minute VC, is starting to have some LPs on it, including the omnipresent Chris Douvos and Sapphire Ventures Beezer Clarkson. I sense a pattern.
As I continued poking around, I found a few LP firms hosting blogs on their websites. I never find this as compelling as when an individual LP has their own blog, but it’s better than nothing. A few blogs I found include Top Tier Capital Partners, Weathergate, and Sapphire Ventures (on Medium).
I wish more LPs would blog to help VCs and entrepreneurs understand them better. If you know of any, please leave them in the comments.
I don’t listen to that many podcasts, but I like ones that are a short (< 45 minute) interview format. I can listen to one of these on a run or a drive to/from my office.
Until recently, the only one I was listening to regularly was the Reboot.io podcast. Jerry Colonna, the co-founder of Reboot.io is a dear friend and his interviews are often magical.
A few months ago I noticed The Twenty Minute VC by Harry Stebbings. I can’t remember which one was the first one I listened to, but I thought his style and interview approach was great. It was fast, started with an origin story, but quickly moved on to the present and then ended with a set of short questions.
Jon Staenberg, a long-time friend from Seattle who did an interview with Harry on episode 034, dropped me the following email at the end of April:
He seems like a good guy, want to be part of his podcast?
Ever in seattle?
I told Jon I’d be game. Harry responded immediately and we did a podcast together six weeks ago. I’d been listening regularly since Jon introduced us and heard several great podcasts, including mentions of me in 055 with Jonathon Triest and 059 with Arteen Arabshahi.
Last week Harry releases two episodes 065 with me and 066 with my partner Seth Levine. I had fun doing mine but absolutely loved listening to the one with Seth, especially around his version of the Foundry Group origin story.
Harry promises to interview our other two partners – Ryan McIntyre and Jason Mendelson – so he’ll ultimately have a triangulation (or maybe a trilateration) of our origin story.
In the mean time, enjoy the interviews with me and with Seth if you are looking for a podcast to listen to.