Extra Crunch roundup: Build a founding team, choose a VC and recruit your board

Assembling a startup team is harder than assembling 10 IKEA dressers, and the stakes are much, much higher.

Starting with the assumption that 90% of startups will fail and the most successful ones take an average of six years to IPO, founders must make careful decisions about whom they invite to join the core team.

Will that stellar engineer become a great CTO? Should your product person be opinionated or a team player? Are you even the best choice for CEO?

ThoughtSpot CEO Sudheesh Nair shared some of his thoughts about building a sturdy leadership team and drafted a thorough checklist for entrepreneurs who are putting a crew together. His initial advice?

“Investors love founder-CEOs, and founders are often fantastic candidates for this role. But not everyone can do it well, and more importantly, not everyone wants to.”

In a related article, Gregg Adkin, VP and managing director at Dell Technologies Capital, shared the framework he’s developed for helping founders set up their board.

Choosing the right mix of people can impact everything from fundraising to hiring: “Investors often ask founders about their board [because] it says a lot about their character, their judgment and their willingness to be challenged,” he writes.

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Miranda Halpern spoke to Amsterdam-based coach Ward van Gasteren for our latest growth marketing interview, which is free to read.

In their discussion, van Gasteren addressed misconceptions about growth hacking, the mistakes most startups are likely to make, and the distinctions he draws between growth hacking and growth marketing:

“Growth hacking is great to kickstart growth, test new opportunities and see what tactics work,” he tells us.

“Marketers should be there to continue where the growth hackers left off: Build out those strategies, maintain customer engagement, and keep tactics fresh and relevant.”

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week; I hope you have a great weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch


What Square’s acquisition of Afterpay means for startups

Image Credits: sureeporn / Getty Images

In his first column since returning to TechCrunch, reporter Ryan Lawler considered the potential ripples Square’s purchase of Afterpay may send across the pond of buy now, pay later startups.

For commentary and perspective, he interviewed:

  • Dan Rosen, founder and general partner, Commerce Ventures
  • Jake Gibson, founding partner, Better Tomorrow Ventures
  • TX Zhuo, partner, Fika Ventures
  • Matthew Harris, partner, Bain Capital Ventures

The investors he spoke to agreed that deferring payments helps drive e-commerce, “but scale matters and long-term margins look slim for BNPL startups,” reports Ryan.

Enterprise AI 2.0: The acceleration of B2B AI innovation has begun

Robot and human working together.

Image Credits: Ivan Bajic (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Businesses have been deploying AI solutions for 20 years, but few have achieved the outstanding gains in efficiency and profitability promised when the technology first appeared.

But there’s a burgeoning new generation of enterprise AI, Eshwar Belani, an operating partner at Symphony AI, writes in a guest column.

“Companies on the leading edge of AI innovation have advanced to the next generation, which will define the coming decade of big data, analytics and automation — Enterprise AI 2.0.”

Embodied AI, superintelligence and the master algorithm

Over the next 18 months, one technologist says the increased adoption of embodied artificial intelligence will open a path to superintelligence — incredibly powerful software that dwarfs anything the human mind could produce.

“All the crazy Boston Dynamics videos of robots jumping, dancing, balancing and running are examples of embodied AI,” says Chris Nicholson, founder and CEO of Pathmind, which uses deep reinforcement learning to optimize industrial operations and supply chains.

“The field is moving fast and, in this revolution, you can dance.”

A lot of cash and little love: An insurtech story

The Exchange looks at the valuations of public insurtech companies and considers what that means for startups — but from a slightly different perspective.

“We’d typically riff on the new values of public neoinsurance companies and use that data to work our way into a guess concerning what the price declines might mean for related startups,” Alex Wilhelm writes. “Taking public-market data and using it to better understand private markets is pretty much the national pastime of this column.

“Not today.”

5 factors founders must consider before choosing their VC

Image of a watering can pouring money on lightbulbs to represent choosing a venture capitalist.

Image Credits: Anastassiia (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The fact that the globe is awash in venture capital should not be news to readers of this newsletter.

For founders, it means more than just fat checks, Kunal Lunawat, the co-founder and managing partner of Agya Ventures, writes in a guest column.

“Founders would be well served to go back to the basics and focus on the principles of fundraising when determining who sits on their cap table.”

Neobanks’ moves toward profitability could be the path to public markets

Alex Wilhelm checks in on results from Starling Bank and Monzo to see what the neobanks’ most recent financial figures say about the state of neobanks overall.

“Although some neobanks are managing to clean up their ledgers and work toward profits — or reach profitability — not all are in the black,” he notes.

But among those that are?

“At least a portion of the neobanking world is financially stable enough to consider public offerings.”

Founders must learn how to build and maintain circles of trust with investors

Human Crowd Surrounding Three People on White Background

Image Credits: MicroStockHub (opens in a new window)/ Getty Images

The red-hot venture capital market may give founders lots of investors to choose from, but the most important thing (if you can be choosy) is being able to trust and rely on your investors, Ripple Ventures’ Matt Cohen and True’s Tony Conrad write in a guest column.

“This … new dynamic is forcing founders to be extremely selective about exactly who is sitting around their mentorship table,” they write.

“It’s simply not possible to have numerous deep and meaningful relationships to extract maximum value at the early stage from seasoned investors.”

What’s the board’s role in an early-stage startup?

Image of a chalkboard illustration of a board of directors meeting.

Image Credits: A-Digit (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Assembling a board of directors is not merely about finding individuals who can aid your early-stage journey, Gregg Adkin, the vice president and managing director at Dell Technologies Capital, writes in a guest column.

The composition of the board can also impact your fundraising.

“Investors often ask founders about their board [because] it says a lot about their character, their judgment and their willingness to be challenged,” he writes.

Adkins offers a framework he calls “SPIFS” — for strategy, people, image, finance and systems for compliance — to aid founders in setting up a board.

Do bronze medals ever make sense for unicorns?

In the wake of Deliveroo’s plans to abandon the Spanish market after the country passed legislation requiring companies dependent on gig workers to hire employees, Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim wondered about the battle for smaller markets and whether third place is sufficient.

“One company exiting a market is not a big deal, but we were curious about Deliveroo’s comments regarding the need for market leadership — or something close to it — to warrant continued investment,” they write for The Exchange.

“Is this the common reality for startups battling for market position, no matter if those markets are cities or countries?”