RIP, Smokin' Joe Frazier, 1944-2011



RIP Joe Frazier- one of the greats and an inspiration to many.

At 5'10" 205lbs he was diminutive by heavyweight standards and yet was a feared and colossal force in the ring.  Simply relentless- always moving forward, giving and taking no quarter, and unleashing the vaunted left hook in legendary encounters throughout his storied career. Olympic gold medalist and heavyweight champion of the world.... first man to beat Ali... and on and on....

Below is a video tribute to him below, which includes his great victory over Ali in 1971.  Something to remember next time you're about to encounter a great challenge of any kind, (entrepreneurial or otherwise).

Of particular note is minute 2:33....


Get the Anti-Startup and Anti-Angel Provisions Struck From Senator Dodd's Banking Bill


This is part of my Series on Angel Investing.

There is a rather large missile rapidly approaching America's innovation culture. Predictably, it has been hurled in the most careless of manner by a group of uninformed politicians and their staffers in the form of Senator Dodd's sweeping Banking Bill. Putting aside the merits and thrust of the Bill itself, (which ostensibly seeks to regulate the banking industry), there are two provisions in it which, if not removed ASAP, will essentially wipe out a large chunk of one of America's engines of innovation- namely angel investing. These provisions will raise the bar on the definition of an 'accredited investor' from $1M in net worth or $250K in annual income to $2.3M in net worth or annual income of $450K! It will also hamstring angel investing by slapping any such investment with a 120 day SEC review.

If this concerns you, you may want to call your congressmen and educate them on this issue. 

For more in depth condemnation of these stupendously destructive provisions, I refer you to the following cacaphony of frustrated voices emanating from the startup and investment community:

Venture Beat: Angels Sing: Frankly Ridiculous Restrictions Might Destroy Silicon Valley

NY Times: Angels Rebel Against Dodd Bill

Kopelman: Dodd Isn't on the Side of Angels... or Startups.... It Proposes a 120 Day SEC Review Period

Litan: Proposed 'Protections' for Angel Investors are Unecessary and Will Hurt America's Job Creators

Xconomy: Dodd Bill Could Render Startups Too Small to Succeed

TechDirt: Why Does Financial Reform Punish Startups and Angel Investors?

Wilson: Startups Get Hit by Shrapnel in the Banking Bill

Shane: How Dodd's Reform Plan Hurts Startup Finance

For the next post in this Series, click here.

Help Repeal NY State's Antiquated LLC Publication Requirement

This is part of my Series on Entrepreneurial Culture.

Those of us who have set-up LLC's in NY State know well of the antiquated 'publication requirement' the State still imposes on so many of its entrepreneurs. (In 2007 alone, 50,000 LLC's were formed in NY State!).

Along with standard incorporation fees, having to publish the "existence of your LLC" in these obscure journals can easily run up an entrepreneur's total expenditures to $2,000 even though any company formed in NY State can easily be found online at the NY Department of State website. This anachronism achieves only one result: it penalizes those same entrepreneurs that the State and the City have spent so much time, effort, lip-service and money trying to empower.

The good news is that there is an effort underway to repeal this legislation in the form of Assembly Bill A04496/Senate Bill S1667.

You can do your part by familiarizing yourself with this issue and if so inclined, by signing this petition.

The Future of Venture Capital is Hanging-Out Downtown: The Not So Big Secret

Wasp_drinking Drunk-hipsters

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 1:9

This is part of my Series on Venture Capital.

Despite the hyped meme people are putting out there about the “venture model being broken”, I’m definitely of the school that believes Venture Capital is merely going back to its roots. Smaller, smarter, more agile, leaner, that’s all. Just look at the charts Kopelman’s been sharing of late. If you ask me, this is all a very good thing.

Speaking of Kopelman, here’s a guy who, along with a few other smaller/high-volume funds is executing very effectively on this leaner VC model (on the east coast at least).  I really do think his extremely effective special-forces model is part of the new wave we will be seeing a lot more of.

To give you a concrete example, this ostensibly “Philly-based” swat team recently executed the equivalent of a pub crawl through all the NYC incubators in a single day, all under the covering fire of a steady stream of tweets, four-square yawps and various other forms of digital pitter-patter that announced their comings and goings. No doubt their approach is catching the attention of their brethren VC’s ensconced in more conventional settings and habits. 

And let’s face it, who really needs an office in this climate? This new breed of bad-ass-VC will meet you in cafes, at the Ace Hotel, in noisy diners- they don’t care. Bring it on. Headquarters, what’s that? That’s silly to them. You go where the entrepreneurs are and you hang with them.

It’s actually been incredibly enjoyable to watch- and with the advent of widespread VC blogging, the Funded, the ubiquity of cloud computing, open source software, younger and younger entrepreneurs and hence much less funding needed to launch a web business- we are witnessing the opening-up of, accessibility of and democratization of the entire industry. And by the way, First Round is just one of an entirely new breed popping up all over the place which includes the Founder Collective, True Ventures, Andreessen/Horowitz and others.

Here’s my tongue-and-cheek take on what’s been happening and what’s going to happen (on the east coast at least).

What’s been happening:

  • Last summer, LP-types reading plays like “Waiting for Godot” on Herreshoff sailboats off the coast of Maine started calling the office sounding concerned and asking what’s going on.
  • This started a small panic and suddenly, guys comfortably ensconced on “VC Hill” in Waltham started driving to Cambridge a lot to get back in the action.
  • Extremely formal guys in French cuffs known for unwinding with $100 bottles of Sancerre after work suddenly started blogging enthusiastically about the arm-wrestling and bowling events for entrepreneurs they are hosting in various “cool-sounding” locations.
  • In NYC, uptown VC’s started trying on jeans they haven’t worn in years only to realize they don’t fit too well.

What’s going to happen:

  • In five years, there will be half as many funds operating as there are today.
  • The last ones standing will be the very established funds on one extreme and this new breed of small, agile, entrepreneur-run operation on the other.
  • Smaller, leaner, genuinely entrepreneur-friendly funds will thrive in this brave new world.
  • Most of them will be “hanging-out downtown”.

PS: (Oh, and by the way, I’m talking about tech VC, not biotech VC. Commissioning the optimization of molecules and the like from reserved and stately offices supported by enormous amounts of capital is not going anywhere for a while IMHO.)

All Hands on Deck!! NYC Startup Job Fair Finally in Sight for University Entrepreneurs

This is part of my Series on University Entrepreneurship.

I've written here about the magnificent tidal wave of university entrepreneurship I see cresting in this country. But those of us in NYC will have the distinct pleasure of watching it converge with red hot Silicon Alley's own wave in the form of the much awaited and upcoming NYC Startup Job Fair. It is to be held at AOL's NY headquarters on April 9 from 1-4pm. Big time congrats to the organizers for pulling this off!

So if you are a student or recent graduate of a NYC university trying to break into the world of start-ups, or if you are a start-up looking for some talented and enthusiastic university students, you should definitely register for this event ASAP as space is limited.

Sign-up here:

NYC Startup Job Fair
Where: AOL HQ (770 Broadway)
When: Friday, April 9th 2010
What Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM


Weekend Reading

NYC Seed Announces SeedStart 2010 Summer Program

I was speaking with Owen Davis last night and he mentioned that no one in the Columbia entrepreneurship community had yet applied for this new summer program. The deadline is approaching so if you didn't know about it yet, there's still time to throw your hat in the ring. Here are the details:

NYC Seed Announces SeedStart 2010 Summer Program-$20k for up to 10 startups for the summer

SeedStart will offer promising teams the chance to build a technology product and launch a company with the assistance of seed investment capital, mentorship and other resources.  Companies will be selected through a competitive application process and each company will receive a $20,000 investment. Throughout the summer, companies will also receive mentorship from experienced New York City based venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, legal and business guidance, administrative help and technical assistance.  At the end of the summer venture capitalists and angel investors will be invited to an Investor Day where each team will present their product and launch their company.  SeedStart will run for 8 weeks beginning in June of 2010.

SeedStart is a joint effort among Contour Venture Partners, IA Ventures, NYC Seed, RRE Ventures and Polaris Venture Partners, and also includes Fish & Richardson, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and Silicon Valley Bank.  The program has begun accepting applications and teams of at least two founders can apply here: by February 28, 2010 to be considered. 

For information, contact Owen Davis at

About Me

I'm a 3x Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Blogger and host of Venture Studio where I engage with entrepreneurs, investors, founders and other vibrant members of the flourishing New York entrepreneurial ecosystem and beyond. 

I'm also Adjunct Professor in Entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School as well as the Director of the Venture Lab at Columbia University Tech Ventures where I've spun-out 70+ technology start-ups based on university intellectual property over the last six years.

My personal blog,, explores the worlds of university entrepreneurship, angel/venture investing, and startups and I'm a frequent contributor to ForbespeHubHuffington Post and Business Insider, whose SAI group recently named me both one of the "top 100 most influential New Yorkers in the digital business community" and "one of NYC's top 100 early stage investors".

I'm an active organizer of entrepreneurship and venture capital events, serve as a mentor to entrepreneurs and start-ups in and outside of the university arena, serve on the Board of New York Tech Meetup, as Resident Venture Advisor and Board Member to the Lang Center for Entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School, and as a Board Member of both the New York Venture Community and Columbia Venture Community

One of my latest projects is the Startup Genome, where we are mapping the entire world's early-stage investment and entrepreneurial ecosystems in a visually pleasing, crowdsourceable format. 

You can visit my blog or follow me on Twitter here



Named one of the "top 100 most influential New Yorkers in the digital business community" by Silicon Alley Insider
Silicon Alley 100

Adjunct Professor Entrepreneurship
Lang Entrepreneurship Center, Columbia Business School

Founder, Totius Group & Rugged Ventures
(Seed-Stage investments since 2001)
Totius Group & Rugged Ventures

Board Member, New York Tech MeetUp
New York Tech Meetup

Board Member, In-Residence Venture Advisor
Lang Entrepreneurship Center, Columbia Business School

Director, Venture Lab, Columbia University Technology Ventures
Columbia Venture Lab

Board Member, Columbia Venture Community 
Columbia Venture Community

Board Member, New York Venture Community 
New York Venture Community

Creator, Startup Genome

Host, Venture Studio

Frequent Contributor to ForbesHuffington Post, peHUB and Business Insider and Mashable








The Verdict on Raising Venture or Angel Money "Pre-Anything"


This is part of my Series on Venture Capital and Angel Investing.

I have the privilege of meeting a lot of entrepreneurs in my dual role as technology investor and university entrepreneur-in-residence. Many of these entrepreneurs are first-timers and are out looking to raise capital for their fledgling companies which very often have no product, no team and no customers. A good number of these folks are also under the illusion that there are investors out there that would be interested in providing them with seed capital nonetheless. This is simply not how things work in the overwhelming majority of cases.

Here are a few quick thoughts for those of you out raising money pre-revenue, pre-customer, basically pre-anything:

  • At this point you need to realize that your sources of funding are limited to either grants, friends and family money or your own money
  • Without some traction in the form of a product, customers, revenue and other proofs of concept, very few investors in the world will even consider investing in your company.
  • The sooner you accept this reality, the better off you will be, because you will be spending your time achieving these milestones as opposed to wasting your time trying to pitch investors.

Are there exceptions to this? Of course there are.

  • Biotech/Drug Discovery is one of them. For example, if you are a world class scientist in biotech and make a break-through discovery in an area with a huge market and demonstrate this with animal studies, investors will be breaking down your door.
  • If you are a serial entrepreneur with a big success or two under your belt, you will be able to raise capital, oftentimes from investors who have backed you before, even if you are at the idea stage.
  • Lastly, if you have what I call the X-Factor, then there are no rules. You will be able to inspire certain adventurous investors to bet on you and help you make your vision a reality.

For the next post in this Series, click here.

Notable News: "Read All About It"

The Parable of the Venture Capitalist, the Entrepreneur and the Professor

This is part of my Series on University Entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists know all too well that launching a successful startup is perhaps one of the most challenging and difficult of all human endeavors. (Please note my stress on the word "successful"). We've also learned that only a small sub-section of the human population are actually suited for this line of work. (They all must share some rare strain of DNA yet to be identified!)

I also like to say that there is actually an even more difficult endeavor. And though I say it in a tongue-and-cheek way- it's actually true. In my opinion, launching a successful university spinoff is much harder. 

The higher degree of difficulty has everything to do with the fact that the entrepreneur/vc/angel has the added hurdle of navigating the oftentimes arcane atmosphere of a given university before he or she can "spin-out" the technology. And depending on the particular university, this process can take anywhere from a couple of months to over a year!

You see, unlike a "normal startup", launching a university spinoff involves such steps as identifying and validating the university intellectual property, cultivating a strong relationship with the professor and the students in his lab, building a relationship with the appropriate people in the university's technology transfer office, and ultimately negotiating a license agreement and stock purchase agreement with them. This will entail agreeing to diligence milestones, sub-licensing fees, minimum annual royalties, reimbursing patent costs incurred by the university, paying royalties back to the university once you have a product and often making the university a minority equity partner in your venture.

It takes a special kind of person to pull all of these moving parts together and it is more than many seasoned entrepreneurs and/or investors can stomach. "It takes forever to get anything done there.... Why should I pay royalties to the university? ... The IP is just sitting there in the lab and I'm the one that's going to create all the value!", are all common refrains I have heard many times.

Mind you- these reactions are totally legitimate and natural without a doubt. For many, it may certainly not be worth the effort. Yet these criticisms always overlook a couple of key points about the nature of university technology that should be mentioned. First, some of the best and most commercializable work going on within the academy is world class and has often been under development for years- in some cases for almost a decade. Second, it is often the case that hundreds of thousands, even millions of research dollars have already gone into the underlying work by the time the entrepreneur/investor shows up for the first time. In many such cases, there is enormous value waiting to be unlocked. This would no doubt have something to do with the stunning historical IPO rate that university spinoffs enjoy.

Probably the most important and overlooked point of all, however, is the fact that the professor has often devoted his or her entire professional life to this work! In many cases these professors are world experts in this particular domain/technology.  This can simply be a priceless asset! Involving the professor as your chief scientific advisor and equity partner can thus bring with it an enormous positive effect.

I've actually posted about bridging this cultural divide between VC, Entrepreneur and Professor before, and have advocated for cultural sensitivity on both sides. Upon reflection I've come to realize that this is really not enough. After four years and with some fifty plus university spinoffs under my belt, I now understand that something much deeper needs to occur, and in this sense, a university spinoff is no different from any other startup. It will always be a story of human relationships and how successful and enduring these relationships will be. So now we arrive at a university spinoff distilled to its very core:

It is the parable of the VC, the Entrepreneur and the Professor...

It is their story to write and it will be a human story about their relationships, their level of trust, their communication and their collegiality and fellowship. 

If it is a story rife with avarice and smallness and conflict- all is lost and we have a failure on our hands. Time, money and resources will have been wasted. Years of people's lives. It is a tragedy.

On the other hand, if it becomes a story of respect, of trust, of friendship and cooperation, we have the necessary foundation upon which a successful university venture can flourish. I have not seen it work any other way.


For Part 25 in in this Series, click here

High Peaks Ventures Announces Fourth Annual "Peak Pitch" Ski Event

high peaks venture partners

My friends at High Peaks Venture Partners are putting on their annual Peak Pitch event this coming March. It's a one of a kind event where entrepreneurs pitch investors while they ride the ski lifts up Hunter Mountain. Any interested investors and/or companies that wish to attend just let me know by either commenting to this post and/or sending an email to See the invite from Managing Director, Brad Svrluga below:

Investor friends-

Happy New Year to all.  I think most of you should have received a Save the Date regarding High Peaks’ fourth annual Peak Pitch event, being held this March 11-12 at Hunter Mountain in the Catskills (a couple hours north from Manhattan, 3 hrs from Rte 128).  This was a great event the past three years, as those who have attended can attest.  Good companies to meet and a great and fun environment to hang out with some investor friends.  We’re returning to Hunter Mountain this year, which proved an outstanding location last year with its terrific lodging and dining right at the base of the mountain, nice rooms, and good bar.  The slopeside accomodatons mean you can arrive Thursday night for the dinner and not get into your car until Friday afternoon after skiing.  Hunter’s convenience to NYC and Boston make it a great location.  

As a refresher, and for those who don’t know, the format is a mashup of the elevator pitch and the traditional venture business plan competition, where investors – wearing green ski bibs – pair off in the lift line with an entrepreneur – wearing a blue bib – and then the entrepreneur has the length of the chairlift to make their pitch.  It’s been a lot of fun the last two years – great networking for the investors at the dinners the night before, and a handful of successful funding connections made.  We in fact just had a successful exit from a company we met at the first Peak Pitch in 2007.  It’s been amazing to see the commitment of some of the entrepreneurs, too – a handful of them in the past had never skied before but then took one day of lessons in advance just so they could come out and meet the VCs.  

I hope you’ll be able to join us for this.  More details coming soon, but let me know if you have any questions now.  Note that novice skiers are more than welcome – we hold the event on a relatively short chair that has access to some very easy slopes down.

Please forward this along to colleagues in your shop or friends from other firms.  The more investors the merrier.



Sherlock Holmes Strikes Again: Robert Downey Jr. Wins Golden Globe for Portrayal of the Great Sleuth


Last week I wrote this post about why I believe Sherlock Holmes would have made a terrific Venture Capitalist. I also mentioned that the talented Robert Downey, Jr. had put forward a really terrific and original interpretation of the great sleuth in Guy Ritchie's latest film. I was therefore delighted to see him receive widespread recognition for this performance in last night's Golden Globe Award ceremonies. His acceptance speech was hilarious and he even gave Arthur Conan Doyle his due, calling him a genius and quoting him. Have a listen:

Notable News: "Read All About It"