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Wednesday
Oct162013

The Value of Starting from Zero (Divergent Thinking FTW)

 

[ Share this piece on Twitter: http://clicktotweet.com/4Wd28 ]

Yesterday I met with a savvy founder working on her first startup. She was looking for feedback and, of course wanted to mention that they happened to be closing out their angel round – there *might* be a little room left for me.

In all meetings, I like to get to the product as quickly as possible, so I asked:

“Can you show me your product?”  I’m a sucker for good product.

The founder proceeded to show me a site that looked exactly like Pinterest, but that was focused on a single vertical (which I will leave out).

“Pinterest clone!” was my immediate thought.

As the product was only 70% as refined as Pinterest, I quickly moved on:

“Uninspired founder!”

… and “Poor executer!”

At that point the meeting was basically over in my mind. Why?  

a) the projects and people I tend to invest in are ‘starting from zero’ and building up, and b) I only invest in folks who can build products that are as good or better than what’s in the market.

The LAUNCH Fund’s investments all have wickedly designed products: AdStage.io, Boxbee.com and WizzyWig.io (and hey, two of three have .io domains – hmmmm).

These are my biases, and they’re largely based on my own reflection of when I’ve done great work and when I’ve done ‘menza menza’ work.

The Save
==============
Interestingly, in the last five minutes I asked the founder why she wanted to build this product and she got a huge save. She explained her personal frustration trying to solve a problem in her life: the granular details of the problem and the potential solutions she tried after talking to her friends.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct092013

Invite: LAUNCH Hackathon, This Week in Startups Live! Boston

 

1. We're hosting the world's largest Hackathon, November 8th-10th in San Francisco. Over 1,000 verified developers will be there (600 have been confirmed already, 400 left).

Apply: http://hackathon.launch.co

2. The LAUNCH Fund will be investing $50k in each of two of the top 10 projects. Those two projects will also be shared with my AngelList Syndicate, making the investment $800k in each. So, we now have the world's largest investment prize (by a factor of 20x+) at $1.6M!

3. I'll also be interviewing Kevin Rose (Digg, Google Ventures), and two other awesome visionaries (suggestions welcome).

best
@jason


PS - A quick recap of the LAUNCH Mobile & Wearables event last week (300+ founders & investors came): http://blog.launch.co/blog/launch-mobile-wearables-wrap-up.html

PPS - Had a great interview with Steve Jurvetson last week: http://youtu.be/O2tK0Wl2F8w

PPPS - My new startup Inside.com will launch in November and I'm looking for 500 beta testers now: http://inside.com.

PPPPS - Will be in Boston this Friday to interview Bill Warner: http://twistliveboston.eventbrite.com

PPPPPS - LAUNCH Festival has a stretch goal of 8k attendees (we hit 6k last year!), and you need to be there.  Visit http://events.launch.co/builder for a free founder ticket. They will run out quickly!

Tuesday
Oct082013

LAUNCH Mobile & Wearables Wrap-Up

 Jason Calacanis in conversation with Sean Rad (Tinder). Photo: Mark Rahmani

Thank you for attending LAUNCH Mobile & Wearables. Your energy and enthusiasm made it a success and we have some information for you:


1. Company Demos

9 companies debuted their new products on the Mobile & Wearables stage, for an opportunity at a $100k investment prize from The LAUNCH Fund.  The 10 judges voted on their favorites (and to keep the playing ground level, @jason did not vote). The winners are:


1. MyTime

2. SoundHound

3. Zepp Labs


In addition, judge and TenOneTen Managing Partner David Waxman selected 3 companies with debuts, and an additional presenting company, for consideration to receive an additional $50k investment.  They are (in no particular order):



The remaining 6 companies that launched products were:



Click to read more ...

Saturday
Sep282013

The Great Venture Capital Rotation

[ You can tweet this piece here: http://clicktotweet.com/p4v25 ] 

A couple of years ago, I was chatting with a guy named Naval, who had a site called AngelList. He had a fiery passion for helping founders and an outsider’s chip on his shoulder.

He wasn’t taken very seriously in the industry, and the venture capitalists I spoke to dismissed him as somewhere between a loon and a jerk.

I literally heard a dozen VCs dismiss AngelList and Naval. They hated it. Some hated him. 

That’s when I knew he was going to change everything.

One VC you’ve never heard of famously deleted his AngelList account in a huff (http://jc.is/16JrZnC). 

[I wonder if that VC – who turns out to be a nice guy – will ever do a follow up post?] 

Naval wasn’t a loon or a jerk; he was just three years ahead of everyone in seeing the power of decentralized funding – and it scared the living sh@#$t out of VCs.

So the petty VCs – especially the ones taking 12 weeks vacation while collecting 3% management fees and showing up late for board meetings – did everything they could to deride him. 

Last week he opened up a radical new platform called “AngelList Syndicates.” 

It’s basically a “pop-up” VC fund. 

Here’s how it works:

1. A “power angel” with a solid track record, who provides massive value, invites other angels to piggyback on his or her deals. 

2. AngelList manages that process and takes a 5% ‘carry’ for doing so. 

3. The “power angel” then gets a 15% carry. 

[Note: a carry is a percentage of the upside. So, if you invested $10k as a syndicate and it turned into $100k, there would be a $90k gain. So, 5% of that gain ($4.5k) would go to AngelList and 15% of that gain ($13.5k) to the super angel. This is fairly standard, with the top firms / fund managers getting 30-35% carry after years of proving themselves.] 

 

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep242013

LAUNCH's first fund, AngelList Syndicates & $100k prize for LAUNCH Mobile & Wearables

I’m super excited that I’ve closed my first formal angel investing fund: The LAUNCH Fund I. Additionally, I’ve started one of the first AngelList ‘Syndicates’ (more on that below).

The fund started when David Sacks and I each committed $250k over five years to the winners of the LAUNCH Festival, but it quickly grew to include a list of my good friends. On average, I’ve got 10-year (or longer) relationships with each of the members of the fund (we are leaving it up to the LPs to disclose that they’re in the fund, if they want to).

Over the next five years, we will invest $100-250k in 50-100 startups.

Next week, at the LAUNCH Mobile & Wearables event there will be a $100,000 ‘investment prize.’

[ Note: LAUNCH Mobile & Wearables is on Sept 30 & Oct 1st in San Francisco at the Metreon City View. A couple of tickets are left, use FOJ to get 20% off here: http://mobile.launch.co ]

What is an investment prize, you ask? Well, it’s a commitment from me to invest $100k in one of the startups there.

Of course, it’s not binding, as the startups need to want me as an investor, and we have to be able to come to terms, but I’m happy to say we came to terms with three of the winners from the LAUNCH Festival back in March 2013 (Wizzywig, AdStage and Boxbee).

At the LAUNCH Hackathon on November 8-10, I will be putting up another $100,000 ‘investment prize’ (at least). The hackathon is brought to you by the fine folks at Capital One, Yammer, Facebook, Parse, Pearson, Amazon & Google.

We already have over 300 developers signed up (we check their code on github – so no spectators!), and we think we’ll hit 1,000. If you want to help buy pizza or put up a prize for these fine folks hit reply and say ‘How can I help Jason?’

Also, our Hackathon will feature none of the offensive stuff that other hackathon recently had (read the gory details here: http://goo.gl/ZS7fxH).

Finally, I’m going to start syndicating my deals on AngelList.

So, if you missed being part of the LAUNCH Fund, you can simply follow me on AngelList and commit to putting $10k, or $25k, or whatever you want, alongside my investments. Of course, you (currently) have to be accredited and understand that investing in startups is a 90%+ exercise in failure, with the hopes of hitting an @uber once every 50 or 100 (which I was lucky enough to do!).

@jason on AngelList
https://angel.co/jason/syndicate  

all the best @jason

PS -- Had a great interview on This Week in Startups with Ben Milne, the founder of Dwolla. Watch it here: http://youtu.be/BFeSgN1cQhg.

PPS - The remaining list of folks we haven’t had on the show: @elonmusk, @mcuban, @marissamayer, @reidhoffman, @markpincus, @billgates, @stevecase, @edyson, @pmarca, @timarmstrongaol, @bhorowitz, @jeffweiner, @tferriss, @sherylsandberg and @finkd among many others. Feel free to encourage them to come on the show here: http://clicktotweet.com/4fe1U [ you can edit the tweet before it goes out ]

PPPS - Special thanks to the following for sponsoring the LAUNCH Mobile & Wearables event: ExpediaHasOffers, Rackspace and Tandem.

PPPPS - LAUNCH co-working space has room for three more startups.
Please contact cowork@launch.co if you want to sit with me here in Culver City!

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