Monthly Archives: December 2017

Happy new year

It has been a great year. In fact, it’s been the best year of my life.

While the year, like all years, has had its ups and downs, the birth of our son overrides each of these joys and pains.

We don’t plan on having a new child every year, so we won’t get to experience this joy every year.

However, we will hopefully get to see our son grow, together with all of the experiences that that entails. As long as that happens, it’s likely that each successive year is going to be the best of my life.

Happy new year.

Visions require sacrifice and repeated communication

Leaders are often portrayed as people who have a vision. And this is indeed an important part of leadership.

However, more important than having a vision is communicating it so that other people instill it as well. This requires two things.

The first is dedicating the majority of your time towards the communication of your vision. If you don’t display this sacrifice, others will question how much you value your vision, and will therefore be less likely to believe in it.

The second is repeatedly communicating your vision across different channels, whether in person, over video, over audio, or in writing. It takes time for any one person to instill your vision, and it takes a lot of time for a lot of people to do the same.

In other words, the message behind your vision is only part of the equation. The sacrifices you make to repeat the message, get other people onboard, and hopefully get them to repeat the same message to others are what transform your message into a vision.

Strong relationships create big opportunities

I was recently thinking about the big moves in my personal and professional life, when I realized that each of them was initiated by the referral provided by a strong relationship.

From my entry to college and grad school, to each of my work experiences, to the most important of them all which is meeting my wife, each began as a result of the opportunity created by a strong relationship.

Of course, initiating these opportunities isn’t enough. In each case, I followed through with a combination of dedication and hard work. However, the first step was taken by a strong relationship.

They know who they are, and I’m grateful to each of them.

This says a lot about the importance of strong relationships in creating big opportunities.

I wonder if the same is true for most people. I imagine it is.

Reasons to not invest

There are many reasons to not invest in a startup. Among others, these include concerns about the size of the market opportunity, the startup’s ability to capture value from its product, the competitive threat, the business model, and the investment terms.

Among potential reasons to pass, some are not related to the founder. For example, in the list above, this includes concerns about the investment terms.

However, most of the reasons to pass are in fact derivatives of the founder. In the list above, it’s the founder who decides to pursue a small opportunity, builds a startup in a part of the value chain that makes it difficult to capture value, is unlikely to be able to outperform competition, and is unable to build a strong business model.

So when you’re not investing in a startup for one of these reasons, which is most of the time, you’re not investing primarily because of the founder.

Mike Maples

Mike Maples is a co-founder of Floodgate Capital, where he has backed companies like Twitter and Lyft.

This is an excellent interview hosted by Tim Ferriss, featuring Mike Maples. It covers not only investments, but also practical lessons from and advice for life.

It’s a great listen as we close 2017 and approach 2018. I recommend listening to the full 109 minute interview here.

Christmas Day

Christmas was one of my favorite holidays as a child.

We had a big Christmas tree in our living room, and I really enjoyed decorating it, as well as waking up to the presents underneath it on Christmas Day.

Fast forward several years, and now we get to do the same for our son. As he’s less than 9 months old, our Christmas tree is much smaller. And since he can’t decorate it or pick up the presents from underneath the tree, we did the former and handed the latter to him.

History rhymes, and that’s sometimes a beautiful thing.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Short term and long term independence

If you think of impact as the number of people you touch multiplied by the impact you have per person, it becomes clear that the easiest way to have more impact is to touch more people. The reason is that, no matter what you do, you can only have so much impact per person because they will be interacting with you, or your good or service, for, at best, a fraction of their day.

Touching more people, in turn, requires working with more people and delegating your work to them. And the more people you work with, the more responsibility you have towards these people. Some people are held accountable by you, and you are held accountable by others. In both cases, a responsibility develops towards these people.

Fulfilling this responsibility requires sacrificing what you might want to do at any moment with what needs to be done at that moment to benefit the organization.

So at one level, you’re sacrificing your independence for impact.

However, it was your conscious decision to pursue the route of having impact in the first place. As a result, at a higher level, you’re simply sacrificing your short term independence in order to be able to pursue your long term independence.

The corollary to this is that seeking short term independence comes at the cost of your long term independence.

In other words, no matter which independence you’re optimizing for, you need to often do things you don’t want to do.

Facts and stories

Some stories are based on a comprehensive review of all available facts. However, most stories are, at best, collections of cherry picked facts pulled together with the goal of convincing the reader to adopt a particular view. At their worst, many stories don’t contain any facts.

However, the facts are always there. Sometimes they emerge and a story based on cherry picked facts, or no facts, collapses. Sometimes they don’t and such a story continues.

Which outcome prevails depends on a combination of the power of the people telling the story, the availability of the facts, and the degree to which a comprehensive review of the facts supports a single view.

In the context of startup investments, most news articles about startups are stories. A startup’s financial statements and KPI’s represent the facts.

Butterfleye is acquired by Ooma

Butterfleye is a producer of wireless security cameras with image recognition technology. I wrote about the company, which we had invested in at Aslanoba Capital, here and here.

Butterfleye was recently acquired by VoIP phone service provider Ooma.

Building a hardware business is hard. The combination of supply chain commoditization and the large budgets required to differentiate your brand in a world where consumers have access to tens of unbranded products through horizontal e-commerce sites, are big challenges.

Led by its founder Ben Nader, the Butterfleye team did a great job in light of these challenges. I congratulate them for the acquisition.