The Venture World

The VC/Company Relationship

AVC - Musings of a VC in NYC -

When I got into the VC business in the early 80s, the VC/Company relationship was pretty different than it is now.

Capital was hard to come by, VCs commanded terms that would be laughed at today, and once they had made the investment, VCs acted as if they owned the Company (they sometimes did).

The VC/Company relationship was a lot more like the current PE business than the current VC business.

Back then VCs thought their customers were their Limited Partners. They would put on lavish annual meetings, treating their investors to three day events at resorts and such.

Capital was hard to come by for VCs too and so they worked hard to earn the favor of the capital suppliers.

All of that changed, starting in the 90s, when capital became very easy to come by in the first Internet boom.

When we started Flatiron Partners in the mid 90s, I told my colleagues that our customers would be the entrepreneurs and that I wanted to treat our investors as our shareholders.

That was a novel idea at the time, but I have advocated for it ever since and I think it more properly captures the relationship that the best VCs have with their portfolio companies today.

Our portfolio companies are our customers.

At USV, we have a portfolio network of about seventy companies. This group spans 8,000+ employees across more than 10 countries and 20 cities.

We have a dedicated team that services our portfolio and as we have built it, we have been guided by several principals which reflect this “customer” orientation.

We put them up on our website yesterday, they are here.

Go read them and you will see that they reflect the fact that we are here to support our portfolio, not the other way around, we view them as our customers, and their success is our success.

I believe this is as it should be.


Nick Grossman — March 13, 2018
What are Cryptonetworks and Why are Tokens Fundamental?

Bethany Marz Crystal — March 13, 2018
CEO Summits at USV

The VC Inclusion Clause #MovingForward

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Upfront Ventures has a deep-seated commitment to equality in funding & building diverse teams across all ethnicities, nationalities and genders. We do this not just because it’s the right thing to do but also we believe it will help drive large and differentiated returns.

In 2017 we began inserting an “Inclusion Clause” into our term sheets because we believe that the culture one establishes at the earliest stages of one’s business will set out the course of how it will grow and develop. We believe that diverse teams produce diversity of thought and that this leads to better decisions and outcomes.

We have decided to “open source” our language in the hopes that other VCs will use this clause and/or improve upon it so that as an industry we can proactively drive the change we want to see rather than just hoping it will happen.

If your firm is willing to commit to this or any similar “inclusion rule” we hope that you will consider linking to it from your firm’s home URL as a sign of industry solidarity in the hope that others will follow suit. Ours is: If you’re an entrepreneur who would like to see this clause in more startups please ask your VC to include it in future term sheets and link to it from their home page.

“We strive to invest in companies that are consciously working to create a diverse leadership team — one that’s inclusive across gender, ethnicity, age and national origins. While we would never impose hiring decisions, we aim to reduce the potential impact of unconscious bias for key C-Level and senior roles within a Company. We therefore ask that each portfolio company include an “inclusion rule” in its HR policies so that at least one woman and/or member of a population currently underrepresented within the company shall be formally interviewed for any open executive position.”

For what it’s worth we also have our “Zero Tolerance” sexual misconduct policy, which you can read here: Feel free to copy or edit this, too.

Why did Upfront decide to create an inclusion clause?

We inserted the Inclusion Clause because in the midst of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements we wanted to take some action. We thought making our values and expectations clear could have a positive impact on driving the conversation and actions inside portfolio companies. We can unequivocally say this has started to work in the companies that we have funded since this clause was inserted.

The idea came from a full-day session we held last year at Upfront. The first session we had was a company training session in sexual harassment and misconduct in which we had an outside speaker talk about what is appropriate and what is not. It’s easy to assume in a small organization that everybody read our employee handbook and generally knows right from wrong but of course companies big and small should never take this for granted. In the afternoon we had a partner session with a separate facilitator in which we talked more broadly about bias, diversity & inclusion.

Towards the end of the day my partner Greg Bettinelli said, in effect, “If we leave here today having just talked and not changed anything then shame on us.” He suggested an idea that comes from the NFL called “The Rooney Rule” enacted in 2003 in an effort to end the era of all-white football coaches in a league with > 75% African American players. The idea was that if any head coaching position was open the owner had to commit to interviewing at least one person from an underrepresented background. The idea was that if you ask owners to commit to the “top end of the funnel” in recruiting it would start to have an impact on hiring non-white coaches.

We immediately realized this was a great idea. We thought that entrepreneurs would rightly push back against an investor or board member specifying that the company must hire a woman or a Latino or any other underrepresented group for an exact role but that any team that didn’t feel comfortable at least committing to interviewing more diverse candidates wasn’t likely to align with our value system of how great teams and companies are built.

Many of us had experiences of asking entrepreneurs, “Why are none of our candidates women?” only to be told that “The recruiters didn’t send us any female resumes.” “Well, did you ask them to???” Duh. If you make it a criterion that they must include some woman and candidates from a background or ethnicity that is not well-represented in your current company then you will have a broader pool from which to select employees!

I saw this on Twitter this morning, which is a telling graphic of how big the change that must come really is.

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CEOs of big companies Guys named John: 5% Women (all names): 4% #InternationalWomensDay

 — @conradhackett

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We were approached by Andy Coravos and Cheryl (Yeho) Sew Hoy who are today announcing the important initiative called #MovingForward. It is being launched today — International Women’s Day — which is fitting.

#MovingForward is an open-source directory that pools diversity, inclusion, and anti-harassment commitments from VCs. Supporting VCs have established their commitment to move forward by sharing their current progress in the wake of the discrimination and harassment experiences bravely shared in the past year.

I admire anybody who sees a problem and steps up to try and make a difference and take action. Kerry Bennett from Upfront and I spoke to them on the phone about their goals and how we could be helpful. In doing so I realized while we had published many public blog posts, we had screened films in Los Angeles on “gender bias,” we had brought speakers to the Upfront Summit every year to talk about ethnic diversity, gender equality and even physical disabilities that lead to bullying we didn’t have a central easy-to-find public position on our policies and views.

So in committing to support #MovingForward we decided it was also a reminder to take more action to, well, move forward!

So we:

  1. Published our “Inclusion Clause,” ( making our views known about racial, ethnic, age and gender diversity that had never before been publicly released in the hopes that others would also adopt it and that if anybody had suggestions on how to improve it they could and we would adapt. We see this as an open source inclusion clause.
  2. Published our point-of-view on “Zero Tolerance” ( in sexual harassment, misconduct and bias inside of our firm, our portfolio and any of the partners with whom we work.

Thank you Andy, Cheryl and everybody else behind #MovingForward.

Thank you to Kerry Bennett for always being such a strong advocate within our firm and our industry. Thank you to Kara Nortman for your leadership on the gender equality topic and your activism with your fellow VCs at Female Office Hours.

Thank you to Hamet Watt for being such a positive leader in the African American community — I have seen in your 5 years with us countless hours dedicated to mentorship and advice to younger founders of color and showing them a roadmap for success. I can’t wait to see the businesses you launch with your new foundry.

It takes a village. Every person must do their part. We have much work still to do but:

A few data points on Upfront Ventures

- 25% of our investment dollars in the past three funds have gone to founding teams with at least one female founder.

- We’ve seen that teams with at least one female founder receive disproportionately higher follow-on dollars, showing evidence that diversity can lead to better outcomes.

- Upfront has consistently ranked in the top decile of investments to female founders and the top 20% of investment team diversity.

The VC Inclusion Clause #MovingForward was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Pay Attention To The Package

AVC - Musings of a VC in NYC -

Tech investing is a lot about big trends and timing them.

We knew mobile was going to be a game changer as far back as the mid 90s, but it didn’t really take off until the iPhone came along in 2007

We knew personal computing was going to be a big deal in the late 70s, but computers didn’t become truly personal until operating systems got graphical user interfaces in the mid 80s.

The internet was super interesting in the late 80s and early 90s but it didn’t go mainstream until we had web browsers in the mid 90s.

Artificial intelligence has been around as a computer science effort for sixty years but it didn’t start impacting our every day experiences until it was packaged up (and effectively made to disappear) in web and mobile apps and increasingly cars and voice activated devices.

My point is that technologies present themselves as interesting investment opportunities long before they go mainstream and figuring out when they are going to go mainstream is a lot about looking for the right packaging.

Virtual and augmented reality has been an interesting and investable technology for the last six or seven years. But it hasn’t gone mainstream yet because the packaging of the technology remains problematic. At some point, some company will figure out how to package it up correctly and it will go mainstream. Until that happens, it is a difficult place to make money, even though a few entrepreneurs and investors have been able to do that.

Blockchain and crypto is in a similar state. Today, other than buying and selling crypto tokens, blockchain applications are clunky and hard to use. Centralized applications are way better than their decentralized cousins. When entrepreneurs figure out how to package up blockchain applications so that they are fun and easy to use, I think we will see them take off. My guess is that it will happen first in gaming and collectibles.

My point is that it is one thing to develop a technology that is superior to the current offerings, but entirely another thing to make it usable by most people. The first part is, in some ways, the more important thing (like Satoshi’s white paper) but the second thing is often where the investment leverage happens.


Nick Grossman — March 2, 2018
Teaching kids to save

“Visibility” — A Powerful Lesson on DACA and The American Dream from @LeonKrauze

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León Krauze from Univisión gave an impassioned keynote presentation at The Upfront Summit on the topic of “invisibility” of immigrant workers in our society. It moved people to tears, was widely Tweeted and several people asked me to share this video.


The millions of immigrant workers who silently wash dishes in restaurants, are prep cooks, pick the agriculture that feeds us, build our houses, clean our houses, watch our kids and do our gardening are vilified as criminals by those currently in power to exploit the fears of working-class white, non-Hispanic, Americans.


Our system works on under-the-table payments of below-market wages for jobs that our non-Hispanic citizens don’t want to do and in a country where people our unemployment rate is already so low that some economists are warning about inflation due to full employment. We know the immigrants are there. As a society we’re happy for the cheap labor and hard work yet they’re the first people vilified when a scapegoat is needed.


As a Jewish person I know something about this scapegoating because it is the history of my people for 2,000+ years including the Pogroms in Eastern Europe that cause my family to escape using fake passports and wind up in South America (Colombia) in search of a better life. So the current race-baiting by this administration hits me directly on both fronts. It is not sufficient for well-meaning people in the administration to stand by and allow racism to emanate from the White House in the name of getting tax cuts or lower regulations.

We have an obligation to speak up or eventually they will come for you.

Or as León said in his speech embedded below:

“Invisibility of the powerless leads to their suffering, prosecution and sometimes outcomes far more tragicThe Holocaust [was] in part was due to the tragedy of evil left unspoken for far too long.”

I’m tired of hearing people on social media speak of “virtue signaling,” a term meant to silence well-meaning people from speaking the truth about injustices done to immigrants, African Americans, the LGBTQ community or speaking up on gender inequality. Speaking up is an obligation in a democracy and of course it’s the powerful who have the loudest voice TO speak up.

It is the duty of the visible to fight invisibility.

León spoke eloquently about the efforts to make the invisible, visible.

He told the story of the young artist, Ramiro Gomez who was born in San Bernardino, near Los Angeles. His parents worked all day so he grew up with his grandmother who taught him the value of an education. He went to college to study art and design. But 10 years ago with the financial crisis he could no longer afford to study. He started living out of his car — too ashamed to tell his grandmother he couldn’t afford college. He eventually decided to become a nanny in an affluent home in LA to afford his education. He became friendly with the gardeners, cleaners, construction workers and even a butler. They all shared the same story — they felt “invisible.”

Ramiro started creating public art depicting images of the invisible in beautiful settings as a reminder of the contributions they make to our society.

He looked at Architectural Digest, Interior Design, Vogue, etc. and realized that Latinos had been deleted from the scenes where they usually were to show the after effects of their work. He decided to recreate the scenes from these beautiful design photos and he added back the immigrant Latinos who are so responsible for the privileged lives we lead. He painted in cleaners and gardeners and nannies.

Ramiro was demanding one thing — “visibility.”

So, too, does León Krauze with his work. León is a journalist with Univision and works hard to tell the stories of the unglamorous. He wants the country to be aware that the overwhelming majority of Latinos are hard-working individuals who contribute to society and in fact have lower crime rates than their non-Latino American counterparts.

Krauze said during his speech at the Upfront Summit …

“The Washington Post rightly says that “Democracy Dies in Darkness” but darkness, silence and invisibility have proven to be fertile soil for prejudice, racism and nativism.”

He told the story about a project he did for Univision that he started 5 years ago called “La Mesa” (the table) in which he sets up a plastic table and plastic chairs in a random immigrant neighborhood and he invites young people to come and tell their stories. He wants to celebrate the struggles and successes of the invisible people of America.

He told the story of three such people at our event that he called, “Three American Women.”

Each of their parents came to the United States in search of a life. They brought children and demanded one thing — education: bi-cultural, bi-national and bi-lingual. Each of the immigrants came to the United States the give their children and families a better life and they contribute humbly to our society, making it a vibrant growth engine.

If you want to understand the critical importance of demographics and immigration read the seminal book, “The Accidental Superpower.

Cristina. From Los Angeles. Her family was from Jalisco and came to the US just to survive. Her parents grew up in poverty, working the fields.

Her parents left everything behind not to live a better life, but merely to “live a life.” They began right at the bottom. Cristina realized just how far her family had come in just one generation. She was recently graduated from Cal State, Los Angeles and works at USC.

Jessica is also from Los Angeles. She was born the daughter of a carpenter from Michiocán, Mexico.

They faced a stark choice — stay and deal with the growing threat of drug violence — or move north to build a life. Her father was deported when Jessica was a child so she had to begin working. She applied for DACA and it changed her life. She arrived in America when she was 3.

Susana also grew up in Los Angeles. She was born in Irapuato, in central Mexico. Her father grew up selling candy in the streets of nearby Leon, Guanajato and her mother worked at a factory.

They decided to emigrate in search of a better life. They arrived in the US when Susana was 6 months old. DACA allowed Susana to gain entrance into Cal State, Los Angeles. She was graduated in 2017 — the first in her family to do so. Her father, just three decades before, was selling packets of gum in the streets of Guanajuato and how had a daughter who was educated in high education and ready to build a productive, American future. She now works as a nursing assistant.

No summary of León’s speech can do it justice so please do yourself a favor and watch it. It was widely discussed at the Upfront Summit for a reason. I promise you won’t regret it.

A special shout out to my pal, Mauricio Mota, on the left below who is also an immigrant from Brazil. He is the co-founder of Wise Entertainment and co-producer of East Los High, a widely popular Hulu show that depicts many stories of young American Latinos. He suggested León to me because they were both speakers at the commencement speech at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. You certainly didn’t disappoint!

León Krauze (right) and Mauricio Mota (co executive producer for East Los High) at the Upfront Summit

“Visibility” — A Powerful Lesson on DACA and The American Dream from @LeonKrauze was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How to Out Amazon, Amazon

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There has always been tension between CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies and the retailers who sell their products to consumers. If a consumer will pay a fixed price for a product or service then the battle over who gets the margin in any sale is between the person who merchandises a product and the person who manufactures it.

This is an age-old marketplace tension where leverage often determines the value captured. This is true whether it’s physical products or media products. Think about the tension between media companies and cable operators like last year when Viacom threatened to pull Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, BET, etc. from Charter’s subscribers. This has obviously occurred in battled with tech platforms like Yelp vs. Google or Zynga vs. Facebook).

As always this battle is settled by the degree to which a consumer has a strong preference for a company’s product vs the substitute products it may choose instead. Many of us learned about substitute products in undergrad economics courses. If a perfect substitute can be launched for a product you often see the retailer create a white-labeled version because it then captures all of the margin.

When a product is truly unique and demanded a retailer willingly promotes and sells it en masse in part because it does get margin on the good but also because it brings customers in the door who spend on other products. If the retailer can get the product “exclusively” (even for just a time window) then it hopes to get more customers shopping at its store or watching its video channel vs. its competitors. As a product or service you can often trade short exclusivity periods for the retailers willingness to spend marketing dollars promoting your product or given you better merchandising in the physical or virtual store.

So Why Does This Matter?

If you create a truly unique product that is defensible and doesn’t have easy substitutes you have the ability to win deeply loyal customers and grow large and profitably. If you product can easily be copied, as soon as you are successful it will be.

My partner Greg Bettinelli gave me the idea for the title of this post because he ran a breakout session at the Upfront Summit titled “How to Out Amazon, Amazon.” I thought it was both a clever title and an interesting challenge for me to articulate my views. In an era where Amazon has become so dominant in the retailing and delivery of physical and digital content are there strategies that can succeed? If you can’t out Amazon, Amazon then move on and do something else.

Here are some ideas of what I believe matters.


Brand seems like one of these nebulous concepts to most people. What is it, really? Of course branding is many things and this post doesn’t attempt a master class. But if we can agree that it includes:

  • Creating a product or service that is distinct
  • Having an identity in which the consumer comes to know what to expect from your brand because it delivers a product that in a consistent way
  • Having a name and often a logo that reminds the consumer of what the brand stands for
  • Having communications and products that consistently reinforce the unique position and attributes of a company’s products

The name, logo, color schemes and even spokespeople matter way more than more tech founders understand because of the psychology of how humans make choices but I’ll leave it to you to read Cialdini, Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow or even any of Jonathan Haidt or others to learn this for yourself. I also often tell people the simple hack is to watch Brain Games.

We of course all instinctively know when we see a brand that is well established what it stands for — Warby Parker produces modern eyewear at affordable prices, Apple produces elegant, premium technology products, Netflix offers an enormous library of binge-worthy, unique video. You might choose your own words or emotions but we can all agree that these are three distinct brands and they are combination of products we consume and the messages these companies communicate to us to remind us of how they’re positioned in the market.

We seed funded a company a few years ago called Parachute Home that has grown 180% CAGR (compounded annually) and is now doing tens of millions of revenue with very little capital raised. I will use some examples from Parachute and some other portfolio companies to give you examples from our experiences of watching successful brands grow. I will avoid talking about Ring (for obviously reasons) but can return to how Jamie built some an amazing business in a future post.

The founder of Parachute, Ariel Kaye, had a clear vision for what she wanted to disrupt and how she thought she could do it. She spoke of the experience of going into a physical retailers like Bed, Bath & Beyond and trying to order products for bedding, bathrooms, dining, baby products, etc. and thumbing through undifferentiated products in plastic wrapping. She felt she could build a direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand that built high-quality, premium products to meet a more discerning customer who also didn’t want to spend his or her time in a megastore.

Ariel understood her customer — the modern buyer of home products — better than anybody we had spoke with and she had the marketing chops to know how to communicate this to her market once she designed & built her products. It starts with category being done poorly, reimagining the experience, creating distinctive products and then constantly messaging this to the market. What started as sheets now has dozens of SKU’s. If you tried to shop Amazon for just one of these categories — where would you even start in terms of product selection? If you know exactly what you want to buy on Amazon — boom! — but what if you need to do product discovery? Not so much.

Ariel built a strong brand where consumers knew what to expect when ordering her products (sheets, towels, table clothes, robes, etc.) and a differentiated feel in terms of fabric, design, sustainability, etc. The huge importance of this is that when you have a high-level of loyal customers you get repeat purchases that are significantly more profitable because you’re not spending new acquisition dollars acquiring them. I’ll give you some of Parachute’s repeat rates later in the post.


If you think about where Amazon excels it’s because they have a huge assortment of products, they have unbeatable delivery options & costs, they have very flexible return policies and they provide good value. It is on this last point where Amazon is best positioned to dominate markets. If you’re in the market for pure functionality and you value the lowest costs, Amazon will always be a great bet. I bought my dad an entire kitchen full of new products when I moved him into a new home. My dad couldn’t care less whether his cutlery, plates, glasses and kitchen utensils are fancy or styled — he’s 80. So I was able to get tremendous value by buying functional products on Amazon. Personally I think if you’re going the functional route on any consumer product you’re in real trouble trying to compete with Amazon long term.

If you want to offer consumer products you need to build stuff that’s much higher quality than a functional offering. In certain product categories that means building in features & functionality that isn’t a commodity. In apparel it means you’ve got to have materials, design and logos that are perceived as premium or fashionable and offer more than utility purchases. Of course Amazon can create sportswear but Nike will continue to innovate on sports fabrics & designs and will apply its logo to its apparel as a signal to consumers that they are purchasing (and wearing) a product that represents a brand value of that is premium to a generic brand.

Any example of quality has been the large number of products launched in the past decade that have taken out toxic chemicals like Skylar Body in perfumes or Ritual in daily vitamins & supplements. You see sustainability of farms as a key attribute in The Bouqs or Green & Blacks chocolate.

In the case of Parachute, like many brands they now give visibility into their sourcing and factories by product types and spend time working with sustainable sources.

And like many modern brands a “give back” program popularized by Tom’s Shoes is also an important part of establishing a strong relationship with customers.


There are really multiple forms of “curation” that I think can build sustainable differentiation in products vs. the retailer that is selling them.

In the simplest form curation is the selection of similar products in terms of function, quality, design aesthetic and perhaps brand.

If you go to Parachute Home’s Website you find 150 main products to choose from in five key categories: bedding, bath, table, decor & baby. This is very efficient if you need these home furnishings and if it’s your style & taste you can shop the full line. Compare this to 5,000 products at Restoration Hardware. Of course you can go to Amazon if you know what you want to buy and you have a very efficient ability to search for and purchase the product. But in a world of nearly unlimited inventory, merchandising becomes a huge challenge and curation > selection for customers who want some help.

There is another form of curation that’s really powerful and that’s when you want a provider to help you actually choose products that they feel you’ll enjoy. There are various models of this but amongst the most successful I’ve seen executed is FabFitFun, based in Los Angeles. They provide a quarterly box with stuff that spans make-up, sports gear, nutrition and just fun surprises. These aren’t “sample sizes” but rather full experiences for women who trust FabFitFun to curate for them. A well-curated box where choice & style come into play are very hard to make generic and therefore this company has enjoyed spectacular growth. I don’t use the word spectacular, lightly.

Curation is obviously also a form of competitive advantage for companies like StitchFix, TrunkClub and DailyLook who offer stylists to help you curate your clothing experiences. It’s true that Amazon can (and did) launch a monthly box, but it’s far less likely that they’ll successfully launch premium stylists who will speak to you on the phone and get to know you and the highly curated selection of a DailyLook.


Amongst the strongest indicators of whether large groups of people will continue to support a brand and buy its product when there are alternatives is the feeling that one belongs to a community of like-minded purchasers. This is true of nearly even fashion category for people who buy handbags, watches or expensive sneakers.

The best modern brands embrace the sense of community and encourage their consumers to share the brands in social media, which leads both to affinity with other purchasers and aspiration in those who are looking for their friends or icons to help them with selection. Below you can see social sharing encouraged by Parachute who use this to drive 40% of purchases from direct vs. referred traffic and with much lower marketing budgets are able to drive 500% more content engagement than Bed Bath & Beyonds social channels.

When we look at investing in companies we often look at their communities and the social engagement as an indicator of whether there is organic demand for the product (vs. companies that have to spend too heavily on customer acquisition).

Get Physical!

In a world in which we all felt like the entire physical world might disintegrate as consumers wanted products just to arrive at their homes, ironically the best brands are moving back into physical retail where consumers can experience and live the brand.

Perhaps the first big pioneer of this was Apple who started opening stores in 2001, just when it appeared that the Internet was going to implode and when they went physical the industry trade magazines and press openly mocked them. They were the fastest retailer in history to go from $0 to $1 billion (3 years) and today they have 500 stores in 24 countries.

But if you look at the trends, many of the best DTC brands have embraced physical.

From Warby Parker …

To Bonobos …


And at Parachute Home we’ve also begun our massive retail rollout with our first two locations in Venice and Portland. And since I have data on this store performance I can tell you that 45% of purchases are repeat customers and with strong EBITDA margins so having a retail location in market helps with brand loyalty and retention.

Parachute even took the “physical concept” one step further by letting you truly live the brand. In Venice, California they opened a “Parachute Hotel” that let consumers experience the product for a night in a world-class location. I think it was clever to launch a physical experience both in terms of marketing and product awareness. The press around the Parachute Home Hotel itself was worth the effort of having created it.


It’s hard to build a successful product company — even a DTC company — if you don’t know how to supply and service the large channels where consumers want to purchase products. At the end of the day, the mass of customers will be spending their time with Amazon, Walmart, Nordstrom, BestBuy and many of the other great places they discover products. In the long run it’s hard to build a successful company if your products aren’t in channels where people want to buy them.

But if you want to out Amazon, Amazon you need a really strong brand, with a high-quality and differentiated product, that is highly curated and develops a strong & loyal community. If you can achieve these things there remains very healthy profit margins and large, defensible businesses in eCommerce.


Note: Upfront Ventures is an investor in Parachute Home, Skylar Body, Ritual, FabFitFun & DailyLook

How to Out Amazon, Amazon was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The “VC Funnel”

AVC - Musings of a VC in NYC -

I saw this image in my twitter feed this morning:

Which led me to this CB Insights post from last October.

You can scroll down to the bottom of that CB Insights post to see how they came up with this data.

There are two things about this chart that I would like to talk about:

1/ Getting VC/angel funding is hard, but even if you do secure it once (1st round), the probability that you will secure it again is only 50-70%, and the probability that you will secure it five more times is between 0-5%. That is what CB Insights calls the “VC Funnel.” Before you jump to conclusions, there are many reasons why a company would not raise a second round, a third round, etc. It could close down, which is probably the main reason companies don’t raise a 2nd round, but it could also sell or get profitable or ICO or go public, which is probably the main reason a company raises a 5th round but not a 6th round.

2/ The NY Metro area is the easiest place to raise capital that CB Insights surveyed. That may surprise people, but it does not surprise me. NYC is home to wall street and a lot of money. If raising money is what you want to do, there is no better place to do it apparently. I am not a fan of investing in companies that need a lot of money to be honest. But if that describes your company, you might want to do it in NYC.


Albert Wenger — February 26, 2018
Hiring New Analysts (Update 2)

Albert Wenger — February 26, 2018
Architecture and Basic Income

How Tech Leaders & Venture Capitalists Can Get Out of Our “Man Box”

Both Sides of the Table -

If I had just one wish for VCs it would be that they would preview the Ted Bunch “Man Box” talk at the Upfront Summit at their Monday Partner Meetings. I would love it if startup leadership teams would preview it to their executive leadership.

We need to learn from women and listen to them. We also need to start having a conversation amongst men about how men talk and behave and about the silence that leads to consent if we’re going to make necessary changes.

Ted is from a non-profit organization called “A Call to Men” whose mission is

“A world in which all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women and girls are valued and safe.”

I have seen Ted speak multiple times because he was also the lead speaker in the #TimesUp movement in Hollywood event that I was invited to in which the goal was to spur a conversation with men about how we talk and behave in the workplace. He is a very effective communicator with a very important message so we invited him to speak with the 450 VCs and LPs that we had at our investor day at the Upfront Summit.

We also invited Anne-Marie Slaughter to talk to us about “What Real Equality Looks Like” and she was equally incredible but I’ll save her messages for a separate post but if you can’t wait I have linked to her video in the title above. In Ted’s words, “We’re not here to save or rescue women. Women don’t need to be saved or rescued. Women are competent at taking care of themselves.” Our goal in this conversation was for a man to talk to other men about how we teach other men to behave.

The video is embedded below and I sincerely hope you’ll watch it both because it’s important and because I could never do it justice in a blog, but I’ll give you his key points as best I can in this post.

One of Ted’s messages to men is that while the overwhelming majority of men are not violent towards women and don’t condone harassment they are often silent about the way that woman are treated in the workplace. He argues that the silence of men at meetings or in front of other men at “the water cooler” when a sexist joke is told sends a message that it’s ok. Men will say about a woman, “She’s probably on her period” if she seems angry but other men seldom call him out on saying this. And every man reading this knows that this and other slights are said when women aren’t around.

“We’re really the first generation of men to be held accountable for behavior that men have always gotten away with. It’s overdue. It’s time. ”

Ted’s message is that our generation needs to figure out how norms are changing and quickly because we’re going to be held accountable for actions that we’ve always witnessed men getting away with. What might have been tolerated in the 60’s / 70’s / 80’s / 90’s in the workplace will no longer be tolerated and this is a good thing.

Ted’s message is that as men we are raised to stay within what he calls, “A Man Box: Show no fear, no pain, no weakness. Man up. Be tough. Be strong. Be aggressive. Act like a man. Don’t show any emotions except anger.

You can’t say “you hurt my feelings” to another man. You can only say, “I’m pissed.” By the time boys go to elementary school they’re told not to cry. We’re telling them to “shut it down.” Stop being a baby. Man up. Quit acting like a girl.

If we disparage girls when criticizing boys then what message are we sending to boys about what it means to be a girl? When we tell boys “Don’t throw like a girl” it sends a message to a 6-year-old girl that they are somehow “less than us” and it leads to a socialization of this in young men.

And he asks, “When do we tell our girls to stop crying?” Never. We let women show emotions, be vulnerable and talk about feelings.

Keeping men in the “Man Box” means that men lack the tools required to deal with their feelings and instead of dealing with primary feelings like embarrassment, shame, fear or hurt feelings we go straight to anger.

“Men die younger because of the manifestations of stress that we haven’t learned how to let go of.”

Ted talks about the objectifications of women and the violence we use as young men in talking about women, “I’d like to hit that.” Violence. Crush it. Beat it up. Smash it.

“We’re taught to objective our girls and we pass that down to our boys.”

He tells the story of three boys who cat call out to girls when they walk by. If the boys notice the father or brother of one of the girls nearby they won’t say anything. What he points out is that men learn to respect other men but not respect women. We don’t stop the cat-calling out of respect for the woman but the man that she’s attached to.

In both groups where I saw Ted tell this story every man looked knowingly. We all know that young men wouldn’t speak up about a girl with her father around. It’s only when you’re forced to acknowledge the socialization of this bad behavior from the youngest of ages you realize that we’ve all been conditioned to it our whole lives and we need to break the cycle in our own boys.

“A real man” is taught he needs to be: Strong. Decisive. Tough. Courageous. A provider. Respect.

“A good man” is: Honest. Caring. Loving. Gentle.

Ted really has an impact on audiences and if you think he could benefit your organization please reach out. You can email and follow them on Twitter at @ACalltoMen

And here are some other videos you can watch:
What is the Man Box?
Tony Porter’s highly acclaimed TED Talk

How Tech Leaders & Venture Capitalists Can Get Out of Our “Man Box” was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Three Bitcoin Billionaires Share Their Story of How They Moved Early into the Asset Class

Both Sides of the Table -

At the recent Upfront Summit my partner Stuart Lander had the opportunity to show some California Love and interview three of the wealthiest Bitcoin owners, each of whom were some of the earliest owners in the asset class and who haven’t sold any of their holdings.

It’s an extraordinary story ranging from Jaime who studies cryptography in college to Bryan who was early in selling products on Silk Road to Steven owns 179,000 Bitcoin worth more than $2 billion.

All three have received death threats and travel with full-time body guards. This interview was truly extraordinary. It’s a short watch — I highly recommend checking it out. Who knows? Maybe you could learn a bit about the next major cryptocurrency trend. The video is 24 karat magic. Enjoy. And if you do please share the video so we share the knowledge.

Three Bitcoin Billionaires Share Their Story of How They Moved Early into the Asset Class was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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