What a year 2016 has been for @venturestudio - incredible guests - conversations with some of the most interesting people in NYC's investment community. It's been tremendous fun and we've learned a ton. I want to give out a big thanks to my producer, Kevin Weeks, for all his efforts. Kevin was a former student of mine @ Columbia- he's worked with startups and investors in a variety of capacities, and was the one who pushed me to get @venturestudio up and running again- this time as a podcast. We both saw the value of speaking directly to the mystery surrounding fundraising by having the people who "write the checks" on the show. Fundraising is a process that all founders face in one way or another, and frankly it remains a major source of stress and anxiety for many of them.
We also want to thank you for tuning-in- we're grateful to have you with us.
And if you've enjoyed the show this year I'm going to ask you to take two minutes right now- by clicking on this link and once there, to clock on "View in iTunes" and then leave us a 5 Star Review- this helps us enormously. Can you do that for us? Much appreciated.
So here we are with a year behind us as a podcast. It's all about learning and listening- we want to give our guests the forum to open-up, speak freely and in "longer-form" with limited interruption from me- so we can get to hear their internal ruminations about investing, about founders, about NYC- and to learn their motivations, interests, pet peeves, etc. We want to get beyond the mundane LTV vs. CAC analysis that anyone can regurgitate. Most of these folks have a lot more going on than investing in startups. They've had careers and families, many have been founders themselves, they are involved in causes and charities and movements in many cases. That's the whole point isn't it? They're real people who happen to invest in companies- and we've had some really great people on who help this NYC ecosystem get better every day just by being who they are.
So just below are some of our most interesting conversations of the year. Rather than simply listing episodes and key takeaways, we thought it would be more interesting to group some of our guests into buckets such as "the newcomers', "the intellectuals", "the tacticians", "the guardians", "the originals", etc. Tweet at us if you learned other things that you want to add.
The Newcomer: Shan-Lyn Ma
Shan is the CEO of the fastest growing registry in the world, Zola. She's just finished raising her Series C and in 3.5 years has built a powerhouse company here in NYC.
She's also jumped into angel investing over the last 18 months. How's she going about it? What approach is she taking. Have a listen- just super thoughtful and insightful.
The Intellectuals: Naval Ravikant & Jerry Neumann
In this two-part interview, my fellow Stuyvesant grad, Naval, who is co-founder and CEO of Angellist went absolutely "beyond thunderdome" as I like to say. He got deep- to put it mildly. He presciently predicted the forces being unleashed on the presidential election, elucidated on his epic post: The American Spring: medium.com/the-mission/america…320bf712#.k4ppdt9pd , covered the power-dynamics (and haters) at play in venture capital, and discussed the coming disruption of the wealthy elite in the American Political system.
Oh yes, I should add we also found time to discuss AngelList, syndicates and startup funding :)
“The hard part’s not writing the check. The hard part is getting a bigger check back at the end.”
Jerry is one of the deepest thinkers in the venture scene, period. He's also one of the longest standing investors in NYC, and has been a part of the NYC tech ecosystem for 25+ years as a VC, founder, angel and fellow entrepreneurship professor @ Columbia.
Jerry goes deep on his investing philosophy and approach, the power-law in VC, betting on the ponies, thoughts on getting started as an investor, Carlotta Perez's epic work on technology cycles, and more. Speaking with Jerry is always an awesome learning experience.
Also check out some links of his below:
Betting on the Ponies: non-Unicorn Investing
Neu Venture Capital
The Tacticians: Steph Palmeri & Jonathan Lehr
A lot to learn from Steph- she's a machine-gun of energy and insights. She comes to my startup classes at Columbia (where she's an alumnae of the MBA program) to lecture on venture capital and always cuts right to the core when she talks to founders about their startup projects.
One major takeaway from this conversation is Steph's advice to NYC founders doing a seed round: You should have at least one west coast investor in the round! Very important to have that DNA in the company when you get to later rounds!
Jonathan is the co-founder and General Partner at Work-Bench which helps scale enterprise technology startups by providing community and workspace, connecting exceptional builders to Fortune 500 buyers, and co-investing in extraordinary founders tackling enormous markets.
Jonathan talks about Work-Bench providing the platform that equips their founders with ridiculous access to potential enterprise clients to do customer development and/or sales. It's working- so pay close attention to what they're building and get involved if you're in the business of selling to the enterprise.
The Accelerators: Jenny Fielding & Alex Iskold
Jenny previews the launch of Techstars IoT accelerator (and their five corporate partners) which she's running. I've been over since then and it's really terrific- lots of great teams. This will be an IoT franchise in NYC- mark my words- a terrific program with a superb leader.
Alex puts on an absolutely incredible Techstars program. It's a jewel here in NYC. From this episode we learned so much about his approach and philosophy. Enormous wisdom here.
Alex Iskold founded GetGlue, which was acquired in 2013 and Information Laboratory which was acquired in 2003. He also writes a great blog about startups and venture capital at and you can follow him on twitter at @alexiskold.
The Syndicator: Ming Yeh
What a pleasure it was to talk to Ming- she's a veteran in the VC industry and is now running the largest seed fund in the world! It's a $400M vehicle called CSC Upshot. Ming is based in the US but the fund's parent company is Chinese.
Ming is full of wisdom and educates us on the burgeoning chinese early-stage sector, her view on Angellist Syndicates and the goals of CSC Upshot. Enjoy!
The Blue-Collar Genius: Paul Martino
From Paul we learn a great deal. Some highlights were what it was like to be mentored by the legendary Bill Campbell, why he and his partners founded Bullpen to play in the space between Seed and Series A, and a good deal about their blue-collar/lunch-pail approach to investing.
Paul's a very successful serial entrepreneur and he described his entrepreneurial mindset in staking out a space in venture that no one else was in: "post-seed, 12-18 months prior to Series A".
The Guardian: Jerry Colonna
We believe that in work is the possibility of the full realization of human potential. Work does not have to destroy us. Work can be the way we achieve our fullest self.
What can I say about my fellow Brooklynite Jerry Colonna? He's just a gem- we're so lucky to have him in this ecosystem. He's helping so many founders and investors via his Reboot coaching platform.
He's also been on a long personal odyssey to find peace and meaning and fulfillment in his life. He shares a good bit on this score as well. A very special person.
The Original: Joanne Wilson
She's a fellow Brooklynite and wears her opinions on her sleeve- a creature of pure instinct- a one-woman-gang backing female founders across the city and the country- yes- she's the gotham gal - definitely read her blog. She started working in NYC tech in the 90's folks- she's seen it all. She was working with Jason Calacanis when he put his first Silicon Alley Reporter out. These days she's having the time of her life and has been investing in startups for a decade.
From Joanne some of the key insights we gleaned were the fact that tweens are too fickle a market to invest in, that in addition to backing women-led ventures she's also quietly running a network of women angel investors with whom she compares deal flow, and that she "beat the shit out of her dad in ping-ping" when she was a kid :)
We also learned that she trusts her instincts 100%, doesn't put up with any BS, totally believes in her insights and is not wracked by second-guessing decisions and all that nonsense. We would all do well to remind ourselves of what self-confidence and conviction sounds like by listening to Joanne as we enter a new year.
Hope you've enjoyed and looking forward to more conversations on @venturestudio in the new year.
Wishing you all the best for 2017!