“In the Studio” continues this week by welcoming a successful founder, entrepreneur, and angel investor, who happened to amass a truly eclectic set of experiences in the Valley, from running a venture-backed company to an acquisition, from investing in some of the most iconic and bold consumer-technology companies in the past decade, and going back to the well again to run his current startup focused on mobile location and messaging.
Bill Lee is a hard guy to pin down, but if you can get his attention, he has an unique wealth of knowledge of how entrepreneurship works in the Valley, from many angles and vantage points. Aside from co-founding a successful company to an acquisition in a previous life, Lee is known to many early-stage founders as one of the most thoughtful, helpful, and savvy individual angel investors around. His portfolio hits include companies like Yammer, AngelList, SpaceX, and Tesla, plus many more. Lee has co-founded a new mobile app startup, Twist, which seeks to run in the background and send messages between people who are going to meet.
In this brief discussion with Lee, we talk around many, many topics. In the first part, Lee uncovers the insight that led him to co-found Twist, how they chose to build on iOS first, how they are waiting for Samsung’s Android devices to catch up, how SMS converts better than email, how to think about virality in non-social graph products, and a host of little variables that he believes make for a compelling app that can be used daily by millions of people. In the second part of the discussion, Lee reflects on today’s investment climate and the changes he’s made as an individual angel investor. For now, with so many more seed investors out there, Lee is reducing his number of investments but deploying the same amount of capital. He’s also investing within small networks and avoiding the hyper-syndication party rounds we tend to hear about on an hourly basis. Finally, as an angel investor in both Tesla and SpaceX, Lee offers some fascinating ideas about software apps that entrepreneurs may be able to build on these platforms and behind these huge waves.