Editor’s Note: Semil Shah is currently an EIR with Javelin Venture Partners and has been a columnist at TechCrunch since January 2011. He hosts a weekly TCTV show In the Studio and pens a weekly column, Iterations. Follow him on Twitter @semil.
“In the Studio” rolls into the dog days of summer by welcoming a guest who, originally trained in computer science, went on to found a large consumer website, worked in venture capital on Sand Hill Road, and after helping out his would-be business partner learn the ropes of “hacking” the fundraising process, set out on a journey to build what a platform for startup investing and other related activities that has been gaining momentum and strength over the past few years.
Naval Ravikant, the CEO and co-founder of AngelList, originally began helping his current co-founder, Babak Nivi, navigate the funding process years ago. Nivi began writing down the ideas, and their blog, “Venture Hacks,” born. Since then, the duo has known they’re committed to doing something meaningful at scale, but had to take many attempts. What first started out as a social network (“Dealflow”) morphed into a Google Group, then a Yammer setup, and then in 2010, AngelList was born with an email list. The initial response was so positive, Naval and Nivi realized that they may had found the initial product their market craved.
Since that point, AngelList’s influence has compounded. More and more companies, investors, and other startup ecosystem players began not only creating official profiles, but also searching for and discovering information on the site. Companies began not only being able to raise small seed rounds via introductions channeled by the site, but also closing larger financings, sometimes even with institutional players participating in the rounds. As more and more information about fundraising has come online, and as more and more companies are being founded, and as people look to the web to help create and maintain a reputation, AngelList has been a key force in the current overall reinvention of venture capital, though it has not occurred without differences in opinion among some of the web’s savviest investors, as well.
I invited Naval in for a discussion because most people think of AngelList as “a place to get funding,” but when you start to peel back the layers, what he and his team are building is really a full-blown product, a powerful platform with an API already in use by some of the largest venture capital firms on Sand Hill Road. In this video, Naval also shares more nitty-gritty details about how he and his team think about product features, their hopes for their API, and examples of the vertical and horizontal features they are playing with. AngelList feels poised to be *the* startup ecosystem identity platform, and while Naval concedes some limitations about how much of the process can be facilitated online, this discussion brings to light just how much AngelList is doing to create more transparency and efficiency within the process.