The thing with VCs and early investors

The thing with VCs and early stage investors is: they are gambling!

It is just the way their business model works. Venture Capital is a ‘hits’ based business. Investors will typically invest in about 100 startups, out of which upto 75 of them will return very little or no money and 95 of them will miss their targets – in other words – 95% of them fail. The 2-3 that do succeed will return several orders of magnitude of the initial investment, which basically pays for the entire portfolio.

At the angel stage, the odds are even worse, where funds like 500 Startups, Kima Ventures etc. need to resort to a model of ‘Spray and Pray‘ – which basically means ‘spray money on a bunch of startups, and pray a couple of them succeed.’

What does this mean for the entrepreneur?

If you are one of the companies that has been ‘sprayed’ money on, what does that tell you of your investor’s belief in how well you will do? – Not much!

This applies even to top, highly selective funds like Y Combinator, which has graduated about 1000 startups (“The total value of the companies we’ve funded is around 10 billion, give or take a few. But just two companies, Dropbox and Airbnb, account for about three quarters of it.” – Paul Graham)

For the entrepreneur – the process of getting the investment really does NOT mean anything! It is just an extension of your life-line. If you have traction, then traditional VC investing metrics like strong teams, great products etc. become irrelevant in comparison. So, my belief is don’t focus too much on what Angels or VCs want but rather focus on what your users/customers want – you need to focus on building a viable business that solves a real problem – and less so on building something that investors would like to invest in or something where the VC community is ‘hot’ in.

When your ideas are unpopular

I came across this article by William Deresiewicz – Solitude & Leadership <http://theamericanscholar.org/solitude-and-leadership/>

I couldn’t agree more with the following paragraphs in it:

“No, what makes him a thinker—and a leader—is precisely that he is able to think things through for himself. And because he can, he has the confidence, the courage, to argue for his ideas even when they aren’t popular. Even when they don’t please his superiors. Courage: there is physical courage, which you all possess in abundance, and then there is another kind of courage, moral courage, the courage to stand up for what you believe.”

and

“The position of the leader is ultimately an intensely solitary, even intensely lonely one. However many people you may consult, you are the one who has to make the hard decisions. And at such moments, all you really have is yourself.”

When your ideas are popular, you don’t need to do anything, since someone else can come along and implement them for you. It’s when your ideas are unpopular – that’s when you are especially needed to see them through implementation because no one else is going to do it – and this can be a terribly lonely process.

Thomas Edison – “I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways that did not work”

When your idea is unpopular, you will be told of 2,000 ways where your idea will not work, but with enough persistence, you should be able to find one way where it does work – and that is all you need.

Entrepreneurship Material

So, a friend had asked me how to get started with the entrepreneurship process. He said that he would come across a couple of ideas and get really excited, but was not sure what to do to actualize it. I sent him a bunch of links/talks that if he went through, he should be comfortable enough to get started.

Here they are:

Books: 

Crossing the Chasm, Founders at Work, Venture Deals, Four Steps to the Epiphany, & Innovator’s dilemma.

Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-H7TAcqGko

http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2735

http://startupdigest.com/marc-andreessen/

Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn founder) – http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2768

http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2329

On ecorner, also see – Jack Dorsey (Twitter & Square), Drew Houston (Dropbox), Marten Mickos (mySQL), & Guy Kawasaki

http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html

Design Thinking:

Design thinking is a field pioneered at Stanford. Design thinking classes are the most over-subscribed courses and it is pretty difficult to land yourself a spot in the courses. I took Design Thinking Bootcamp and it was simply amongst the best courses I have taken at Stanford.

What is it? Design thinking isn’t thinking about designing a pretty dress or doing interiors of a house. It is about finding solutions to ill-defined problems. A large part of it focuses on figuring out exactly what problem to solve.

Here’s the virtual crash course video: http://dschool.stanford.edu/dgift/

The First Post

For a while, I was thinking of writing a blog about random tech entrepreneurial musings. Finally, I managed to get around to it.

A bit about me/what I’m upto:

I’m Anish Godha. I’m originally from India, currently in Palo Alto, CA. I recently got my MS degree from Stanford, have a BS degree from Northwestern and went to high school at the Cathedral & John Connon School in Mumbai.

For the entrepreneurial process, I’m founder & CEO of MochaMeet – a group planning startup that exists solely because I wanted a way to stay in touch with my friends after graduation, but could not find anything available that was ‘it’. There has been a tremendous amount of learning and a lot of my future blog posts would draw on my experiences with MochaMeet. I’ve spent about 2 years on the concept, pivoted away from an earlier direction and recently, our revamped web version went live!

I’m also co-founder of a made-to-order jewelry e-commerce company called Diamondere.com – a spin-off from our jewelry manufacturing family business in India. Diamondere is a concept where any piece of jewelry can be personalized to suit the user’s style – change gem stones, change gold color/quality & even engrave for free. Given our manufacturing background and proximity to the source (India processes about 92% of the world’s diamonds), we are able to price this at about 30-50% cheaper than other retailers.

Needless to say, I keep myself fairly occupied. Since both startups are so different – team, market, product, business model etc, I’ve been able to get quite a varied experience in a fairly short amount of time.

So, I intend this blog to be something more along the lines of random, ‘Thoughts, Musings & Erratic Ramblings’ – though most of it would be fairly focused on tech entrepreneurship.