Archive for the 'venture' Category

Scouting Angel List

I’ve become an Angel List scout.

What’s Angel List? It’s a service that my good friend Naval Ravikant launched in February 2010 with the Venture Hacks crew, which is dramatically improving the process that is the tech fundraising model. Need high quality investors for a startup? All you need to do now is pitch it via a form.

What’s an Angel List scout? Someone that the Angels on Angel List can trust, who will help filter and provide social proof on startups.

Why am I an Angel List scout? I get a lot of people wanting to meet with me to discuss their startup and help them get introductions to people I know. This is partly due to my profile in building the Australian tech community, my involvement in the DataPortability Project, and my most recent initiative the StartupBus which I launched in 2010 as an entrepreneur development program and with its success I now hope to turn into a qualified community of entrepreneurs (more on that another time).

By being made a scout, I’m now going to be able to direct people to Angel List and formally provide social proof to the investors who want to know more about the startups applying. I won’t be investing in the startups that apply, but I can provide recommendations to people who will.

I don’t get paid for this. Actually, I don’t get any benefit from doing it, other than the satisfaction of helping people like future entrepreneurs and my friends at Angel List. But hopefully, I can now make my interactions with people more valuable as I have a direct connection with what I believe could transform Silicon Valley and consequently the world one day.

So if you have a pitch, go ahead and fill out the form – add my name in the referred field and they will circle back with me for my opinion (currently free-form text, but it will soon be a drop down). Also, if you want to be visible to me when applying, you have to choose me from the “angel picker” when me apply. I’ll try my best to make coffee time for as many entrepreneurs as possible who stop by San Francisco, as I have been in the last year and a half since moving to America.

Update January 2 2011: I just got told that “as a scout, you can see, vote, and comment on startups that have chosen to be visible to you. So you do have some real powers in influencing the investors on the site and crowdvoting up the good startups”. So once again I can’t *do* anything that will get you funded, but I can help 🙂

Why the angel bubble is not a bubble but actually the missing link

Naval Ravikant has written a thought-provoking post on the growing “angel bubble”. His thesis is that there is no bubble because the total money amount of money being invested in venture hasn’t increased. What’s changed he claims, is simply that instead of bigger Venture Capital (VC) rounds that are fewer in number, we’re seeing smaller but many more Angel investments occurring. In other words, the VC industry — not the Federal Reserve — are the ones that should be worried about this “bubble”.

I actually think what’s happening is that the market is now more resistent to bubbles. Contrary to a previous post of mine where I hypothesised the seed investment bubble (which I’ve since reconsidered and I’ll explain later in this post), the Angel “bubble” is a externality of one simple fact: it’s now a lot cheaper to build a startup. To understand this, watch the presentation Naval gave a few month’s ago which is the best I’ve seen to date in this trend.

So as a consequence, angel investment has now becoming (and rightfully so) the dominant way for a company to fund a startup company, with the existing VC model being relegated to more of a latter stage role.

Why is this a good thing? Well first of all, a lot more startups are being funded — but with the same amount of money in the economy. Statistical theory will claim that this alone will be good thing for the economy, as there is a higher probability of home runs. By spreading risk among more bases, there’s a better opportunity to generate returns.

But something more important is happening. VC’s now have a better qualification of a business to invest in. The huge amounts of capital they can invest into a business, are now going to be done after having seen a more advanced startup’s potential future, pushed to that stage by the seed accelerators or angels that cover their startup cost.

What I mean, is that by the time a company gets to VC, they will no longer be a startup — which is a business searching for a business model — but instead a high-growth business that’s now executing on their newly discovered and high potential business model. The VC firms are no longer needed in the business of starting something in information technology; they are instead now purely in the business of growing a business (where already some of the larger funds exclusively focus on). And the capital they are putting at risk on behalf of the endowments and pension funds that gave them that money, now have a lower risk of achieving higher returns.

Better still, the VC’s funds can focus on the future of technology like clean energy, biotechnology, and nano  technology — industries that were what information technology was in the 1970s: high startup cost, low chance of return.

And while that’s all well and good for the VC’s, this new funding lifecyle actually opens up opportunities for returns for everyone (which is why this isn’t a bubble). The seed accelerators and angels have the ability to pass the baton and exit their investments to better capitalised groups like the VC’s, allowing them to focus on the earlier stage of the market. With the IPO market dead since the introduction of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, tech has relied on acquisitions as the sole form of return. But with earlier stage investors like the Angels getting exits to VC’s, and the VC’s having better qualified businesses that they can grow to a large IPO, this is actually going to see the IPO market reopen due to this focus.

All in all, that’s not a bubble: that’s called efficiency and a rejuvenation. The Angel bubble isn’t a bubble but a maturity and evolution of the technology ecosystem. This is actually the missing link in efficient information technology being built — the link which now connects the super-highways of the economy to sustainable growth and value, not bubble.