How to trigger FOMO among VCs, plus PMs, SoftBank, and cheese


Fundraising 101: How to trigger FOMO among VCs

Our media columnist Eric Peckham talked to a variety of successful founders on how they generate FOMO (i.e. fear of missing out) among VCs during their fundraises. While having a great deck and story is key to startup success, clearly there is also a bit of the dark arts required to go from intro email to term sheet.

We focused on a two-week period and set all the meetings for Thursday and Friday. From 7am into the evening, back-to-back pitches at all the firms in one area then the next area. That’s because partner meetings are on Mondays, so the Thursday and Friday conversations would lead to pitching the whole partnership the following Monday. We had a 24-hour rule: if we didn’t hear back from a fund in 24 hours, we crossed them off the list.


According to this CEO, Sequoia and Benchmark are the best at throwing entrepreneurs off their process in order to get ahead of the competition. Sequoia will typically arrange meetings for the morning so they can invite you back for a second meeting with more partners that same afternoon; Benchmark’s partners are quick to travel to wherever you are in the world and sell you on working together (with a term sheet at the ready).

Q&A with J Crowley, Head of Product at Airbnb Lux, on what makes a great PM

Our editor Jordan Crook did a great interview with J Crowley of Airbnb Lux and formerly of Foursquare, and the two of them discussed the opportunities and challenges of being a PM, how to deal with failure, and how to be a leader on a product team.

Jordan: You’re not a technical product manager. Do you feel like that’s something that you’re missing? Do you think that a company needs a mix of both technical and non-technical product managers?

JC: Missing?

Jordan: Yeah. Do you wish you had more technical experience? Is that something you’ve tried to teach yourself?

JC:Early on, it was probably my biggest insecurity, that I did not have a technical background. But I quickly learned that I had a decision to make. I could either spend a tremendous amount of time trying to develop my weaknesses, in this case, a lack of technical experience. Or I could double down and focus on my existing strengths. So I decided to spend 80% of my focus on my strengths, and maybe 20% of my focus developing my weaknesses. But I was only doing that 20% percent, not to become a technical expert, but to be able to have conversations with engineers, to better understand tradeoffs… and not embarrass myself.

The savage genius of SoftBank funding competitors

Josh Constine looks into the SoftBank Vision Fund’s aggressive expansion strategy, which involves breaking a classic norm of the VC world: that you never invest in competitors to your portfolio companies. From ride hailing to food delivery and more, the fund seems willing to back anyone in their favorite spaces regardless of competitive threat.

If a late-stage startup declines to take SoftBank’s money, that just decreases the same worries of their rivals who then become more likely to accept the investment giant’s funding. The first startup could suddenly find themselves being outspent by their competitor. The fear of that situation compels the first company to get into bed with SoftBank. And when SoftBank does enter a new market with an investment, other companies in the space race to ask for it to fund them too. The choice is between no conflict and no capital, or conflict and capital. Most founders will choose the latter.

Delane Parnell’s plan to conquer amateur esports

Eric Peckham has been busy! In addition to figuring out how to build FOMO, he also interviewed Delane Parnell of PlayVS, a startup targeting amateur esports. The two talked about the market, the challenges of building a startup in this space, and what the future holds for the rapidly growing esports market.

Eric P:You’re starting with a focus on high school esports but PlayVS has bigger ambitions. Why is high school the first step?

Delane P.: There are probably other ways to unlock this market opportunity, but to me, high school seems like the obvious place to start given the impact the system has had on other major sports in our country. In fact, all of our major sports except baseball started at the scholastic level and high school specifically has been a catalyst for growth.

It has all the ideal attributes: perfect demographic (13 to 18), existing infrastructure of facilities and coaches, and a proven model around sports. It’s inherently local, which is huge for esports because it follows the trend of franchised leagues.

Looking Beyond Meat the future of food investment may start to look really cheesy

Our LA-based editor Jon Shieber investigates the changing investments in the foodtech market, finding that VCs are increasingly moving toward alternative dairy products like cheese.

But for the most part, these brands don’t look that much different from the retail investments that for years have been the purview of private equity firms like L Catterton Partners.

That’s why the lab-grown meat, meat alternatives and dairy substitutes may be more attractive for tech-focused venture investors. These deals, venture capitalists can argue, are more grounded in technology and can ostensibly operate at margins that look less like traditional food businesses.

“If you peel back the onion there’s a lot of innovation and technology around what they’re doing that is super disruptive to this category that hasn’t been innovated around in a while,” says Revolution Ventures principal, Kristin Gunther.

How we scaled our startup by being remote first

Seeq CMO Michael Risse writes a column for Extra Crunch discussing the power of being a remote-first workplace. Remote workers have been around for years, but there is — from my eyes at least — a specific trend of more companies moving toward a remote-first arrangement.

At Seeq we have developed a variety of ways to build trust, reinforce positive social bonds and keep employees engaged. In May we had our 4th annual all-team meeting where everyone gets together for company, team, and ad hoc interactions (game night!). This is an opportunity to meet the people we’ve known for months and work with every day and work on defining the expectations for how we work together.

We also have remote-first meetings for everything from Halloween parties to baby showers to book clubs. And daily we have “Sharing Time” which is where one person spends 15 minutes presenting a topic of interest in their non-work life.

Sure, it’s easy to mock sharing time as show-and-tell from elementary school, but the effect is real. As a result of sharing time, Seeq employees agree they know more about their distributed co-workers than they did about collocated workers at previous jobs. The impedance and formality of offices, floors, and buildings simply isn’t there in a remote-first org, which lends itself to more open and interactive communications.

The challenges of truly embracing cloud native

Finally, our enterprise reporter Ron Miller explores the challenges of moving entirely to cloud native. Despite the buzz at Kubecon and other venues, the reality is that large enterprises are still struggling to make the transition from their on-premise applications to a fully cloud-based model. Ron explores the challenges:

“Unfortunately, there is no single playbook because every company is different. When you are trying to solve organizational problems, or people problems, people are messy. So oftentimes, it requires a unique approach,” Monroy explained.

He says that starts with understanding that the folks in security and compliance are not simply saying no to make your job difficult. They have a valid role in the organization and it is incumbent upon cloud native proponents to recognize that. “The key is approaching folks in compliance and security with a healthy degree of empathy. These folks have to approach their job with a degree of risk management that development might not [always] appreciate,” he said.

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