A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes. There are a number of reasons why Rincon Venture Partners passed on Twilio’s Seed Round. In retrospect, our decision was both perfectly rational and completely lame. VC's love to talk about their successes. However, they seldom acknowledge their mistakes. Exceptions exist, such as the highly self-aware Paige Craig, who recently described how he missed out becoming Airbnb's first investor. Yet most VC's bury their failures under six feet of denial. Twilio has now raised around $235 million, including a July 2015 round totaling $130 million. This latest round valued the company in excess of a billion dollars, entering them into the overly-hyped Unicorn Club.
Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ Manager, was tenacious and ambitious, but he was musically inept. Brian was instrumental in establishing the Beatles’ career, but he had no input on the band’s production of music. In the same way, investors can be immensely additive to an entrepreneur’s journey, as long as they know the limits of their ability to help. Effective startup investors guide management’s decision process, but ultimately they support the team’s decisions. If the investors repeatedly disagree with management, they should either disavow themselves from the startup (which is typically difficult for a venture capital firm to do) or make appropriate replacements to the management team. However, they should never attempt to run a company from the sidelines.
A version of this article previously appeared on the Wall Street Journal. As crazy as it sounds, surfing has made me a better investor. The sport involves a surprising amount of downtime between sets. During the many hours I have stood in anticipation of the next wave (as noted in You’re Never To Old To Learn To Surf, I’m an old guy on a standup paddle board), I have come to realize that surfing and investing share a number of surprising corollaries.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. On a micro level, you can do your part to fix tech's gender problem by recruiting people with diverse backgrounds and place them in a company culture that rewards those who challenge the status quo. Like all important social movements, the change begins with you.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. As a Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurship at UC Santa Barbara, students ask me dozens of times each quarter, “What do you think of my idea?” My response is typically, “What I think of your idea is irrelevant. Tell me what you think of it.”
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. Who would have thought academic videos recorded at a state university would generate nearly 23 million views? Certainly not I when I took over the program three years ago. The speaker series, which is part of the UC Santa Barbara’s Technology Management Program, has attracted an impressive cadre of venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and philanthropists, including: Peter Levine (Partner, Andreessen Horowitz), Dan Engel (sold one of his companies to Google), Dan Burnham (CEO Raytheon), Tracy DiNunzio (CEO, Tradesy), George Powell (Founder, Skate One Corp, discovered Tony Hawk), Jim Zarley, (CEO, ValueClick) and Kirsty Spraggon (Host of KirstyTV). Our high viewer engagement encouraged us to morph to an interview format in which my students and I ask our guests questions. This conversational approach has proven more entertaining than the conventional “speaker behind a lectern” methodology, which has further increased our viewership. The series is reaching nearly 6 million global viewers annually, many of whom are downloading the free episodes via iTunes. I have enjoyed all of our speakers and have been honored to share the stage with them. From dozens of fantastic talks and interviews, I have selected five that were especially impactful and continue to be widely watched, month after month.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. Even entrepreneurs that already sold on SaaS should stake note of new research from the SalientGroup: SaaS gets funded - Nearly 50% of SaaS-based startups are getting successfully funded—a rate of funding success no other sector can match. SaaS-based companies grow - The SaaS market is growing 3x faster than the software market (20% vs. 7%), and this rate is expected to continue through 2020. Overall, according to Gartner, the SaaS market will top $22 billion by 2015. But there are some even bigger reasons organizations at every stage should increase their savvy in SaaS. According to Dave R Taylor, CMO of Impartner, SaaS’s ability to snap in modular solutions at the highest levels is revolutionizing the final bastions of traditional IT.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. In the 1998 movie The Big Lebowski, Jeff Bridges’ character, The Dude, laments the destruction of his favorite rug by repeatedly stating, “That rug really tied the room together.” In homage to The Dude’s sentiment, tech startup Akanda Virtual Networking named its open source project The Rug because it “ties together” OpenStack networks by managing orchestration, routing and other key network services. According to Peter Christy, Research Director of Networks at 451 Research, “Akanda isn't the first open source network option for OpenStack, but its layer 2 agnostic approach, combined with Akanda's interfaces to network-dependent OpenStack projects such as Ceilometer and Horizon, give it a leg up when compared with self-contained 'black box' competitive approaches.”
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. Sometimes being clueless makes you fearless. This was certainly the case with Hollywood star turned inventor, Hedy Lamarr. In 1937, Ms. Lamarr abandoned a successful European film career to become a Hollywood star. Although successful, she quickly became bored with the vapid nature of stardom, once saying, “Any girl can be glamorous. All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.” Unsatisfied with the intellectual limitations of Hollywood, Ms. Lamarr collaborated with an unlikely partner and together they created a fundamental invention which helped secure their lives of hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women. More significantly, their innovation subsequently became the basis one of the most significant products of the past century.
A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes. There are two schools of thought regarding how to make anything go viral. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell emphasizes the importance of the messenger. In contrast, Jonah Berger’s Contagious: Why Things Catch On proclaims that a properly structured message makes the messenger inconsequential. Which approach is correct? As with most business strategies which migrate from the classroom to the real world, the “correct approach” involves combining the appropriate elements from multiple theories and applying them to your specific situation.