Next, Final Frontier: Lessons Learned Investing in West & South Africa

During my time at global early stage seed fund, 500 Startups, I’ve led deals in agriculture marketplaces in Indonesia (iGrow), global workflow management software from Brazil (Pipefy), and even education or sewing marketplaces in “emerging markets” like the MidWest of the United States.
500 Startups has a culture of looking ahead to emerging markets, so I was encouraged to follow my investment thesis that there is massive opportunity in thinking ahead.
There were many haters, especially when I became interested in West Africa:

“These markets are too early.” 

or,

There’s no downstream capital for these companies.”

Initially, I was worried about whether I would be stranding these companies or whether it was too early for 500 Startups.

Over the last eight months, we have invested in four companies in South and West Africa through our accelerator program: Sweepsouth, (B14),  KudoBuzz (B14), mVendr (B16),  Podozi (B16), and just recently accepted SureGifts in Batch 18, one of the fastest growing loyalty technology companies in Nigeria and Kenya.

This piece is about what I learned investing in these markets, and why I think all serious investors should learn and be aware about what’s happening on the African continent.

Geeks On A Plane 2016 will be in Africa, so there is an amazing opportunity coming in March.

Here’s what I learned.

1) Why go to West or East or South Africa in the first place? The Future is African. 

This stat that blew my mind: “Sub-Saharan Africa will have a population boom from today’s 900 million people to 2.4 billion by 2050, with almost half of the world’s children being on the continent by 2100.”

There are 54 countries in Africa with unique individual cultures that are all geared for massive economic growth – 50% of the people on the continent are 19 or younger.

I read this right before my trip, and my mind was blown. There were talks of startups like Paga, ACE, Jobberman, Jumia, and increased funding:

“$400 million in VC funding for African startups in 2014. More than a billion dollars will be invested in Africa by 2018.”

Trends in “M-commerce”, B2B for growing SMEs, fintech, big data, and more have been covered in great pieces like this one from I-Dev International. But, you have to go. There’s nothing you can read in a book that will prepare you for feeling the energy and innovation building in the ecosystem, and we international tech investors have a lot to learn.

2) Mentorship is more rare than money, and foreign investors and entrepreneurs can add immense value.

Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology – a two-year entrepreneurship funded school that finds and invests in entrepreneurs from Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya invited me to visit after I made an accelerator investment in a graduate company called KudoBuzz, a SaaS tool for e-commerce companies.

I was blown away during my time giving a guest lecture and spending time with the entrepreneurs at MEST. What also blew me away was that Jorn, CEO and founder of multi-national SaaA company Meltwater,  spends time every single quarter mentoring young entrepreneurs.

It’s his time, not just the considerable capital Meltwater has invested, that makes MEST an amazing addition to the ecosystem.

At 500, the main areas we were able to help the startups were around understanding the fundraising process.

From our South African founder of Sweepsouth, Aisha Pandoor, called Sweepsouth’s experience in San Francisco in the accelerator a “game-changer for SweepSouth in the level of mentors and the network we’ve had exposure to, both of which would previously have been quite far out of reach for a startup based on the other side of the world.

As one of the first services marketplaces in Africa, it was hard to find local founders and mentors with enough experience to provide meaningful advice, and this is a conundrum for other disruptive African startups.”

3) The challenges are real, but they can be overcome (with time).

Last batch, I led our first accelerator investment in a Nigeria-based company called Podozi, a beauty e-commerce company, going after the exciting African women market who spends five times more on beauty and hair than other ethnic groups and will continue to grow.They had graduated from Savannah.vc, a Nairobi-based incubator.

My thesis around Podozi was around my conviction about the growing and interesting beauty market in Nigeria and across the continent, and in the founders, Teniola and Wale. Building an e-commerce beauty brand like Sephora will be challenging, but someone will win in this market. I believe Teni and Wale have the conviction and experience to win. However, their journey will be full of challenges.

Not only were there challenges with logistics, basic office management, and recruiting – the dropping value of Nigerian Naira made tracking metrics complicated and disheartening for them.

Then, there was the bleak downstream capital situation. Clayton Bryan, in the SF office, helped me connect Wale to local angels, as well as explore more downstream capital sources for African-based companies in the European VC scene in London, Dublin, and other hubs.

There are super early stage programs like MEST, Savannah Fund and then growth funds, but very few options in between, which is why Podozi and other startups must focus on revenue and growth until they reach the stage they can access capital in their markets or foreign investors.

Four months after making the bet on this team, I watched Teniola (TeniBeauty to friends) pitch at Demo Day stage with confidence.

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3) Focus on founders – experienced founders are beginning to emerge

Since downstream capital is challenging to close in the ecosystem, so it makes sense to filter for scrappy founders and innovative, clever business models who can be more cashflow generating if they haven’t raised locally.

Other accelerators are beginning to take notice. While I was at MEST, I also had the chance to coach three Ghanaian and Nigerian women, all-technical team, building a social app for African hair calledTress. Nine months later, they were accepted into the YC fellowship program, and today they are raising a seed round to grow faster.

I’m very excited about the team that is joining me in San Francisco this coming week for the launch of Batch 18 – SureGifts. The founders are ex-Jumia (one of most successful e-commerce brands out of Rocket Internet) early team members and have already raised capital. They have already proven they can expand out of their local market and have scaled from Nigeria to Kenya.

These are the types of founders that we are getting at 500 Startups now, since we have been investing, learning, and building relationships and reputation early.

4) Community is key.

Many programs and accelerators in emerging markets are early and still figuring out how to provide value in their early ecosystems.

Many “angel investors” aren’t used to investing in technology startups and come from real estate or private equity, not operating backgrounds, which can create problems between the local investors and entrepreneurs.  It’s another example where money is less valuable than mentors and experience.

Our role is to support and identify  the best credible and local investors to co-invest with, as well as to provide perspective and mentorship to entrepreneurs on the ground. Even if your fund does not support international investments, you can begin to make the relationships.

Distrust between local investors and entrepreneurs can be complicated, but as foreign investors we can provide perspective about the importance of fair practices and terms for early stage technology investments, as well as encourage communities of entrepreneurs to share information, help each other, and build sustainable communities.

Trust is hard to build, but after my experiences with MEST, She Leads Africa, and other great organizations, I am confident these communities can become sustainable.

 5)  Just go and learn for yourself.

If you’re an early stage investor and have any plans to be a part of the emerging economies globally, you’re missing out if you continue to ignore (or overlook) the African markets – the only color we care about as investors is green.

Foreign investors can provide a lot of value through mentorship and spending time helping entrepreneurs who are solving problems in their communities.

I urge other investors to pay attention to what is happening on the African continent, from Lagos and Accra to Nairobi to Johannesburg.

Come join us at GOAP and find out for yourself.

Additional Resources:

The Virtual World is Calling: 16 Predictions for the (Near) Future of VR

A year ago, I met up my friend Eugene Chung who used to run film & media for Oculus virtual reality (VR).  Eugene was telling me about his first VR film he created. At the time, I had very little knowledge about VR but definitely wanted to learn more and very curious. I asked Eugene why anyone should care about VR. His reply? He simply insisted that I should try it for myself and experience “The Rose and I”.

That day, I went to Eugene’s studio in SOMA and put on the Oculus Rift headset for the very first time. Boom, and finally I got it — I was in space and could see the little prince standing on the little planet not too far way. I walked towards him then realized I can walk around the planet. I could see him climbing in and out of his cave and plant his rose.  All I could say was I felt magically. Wow…

According to CBInsights, VR and AR startups have raised over $1 billion in funding since 2014.  VR did not only rock my world, but also the world of many other industries. VR has a depth of engagement that most other medium cannot match because of the immersion it offers. As Chris Dixon mentioned “VR will be the ultimate input-output device. Some people called VR ‘The last medium’ because any subsequent medium can be invested inside of VR, using software alone.”

From events to healthcare to travel — VR is not simply for kids to play games, but offers new forms of experience and expression. The space is moving so fast that most people are missing a lot of the best, under-the-radar use cases that have popped up in the last couple of years. Here’s a sampling:

1. Travel

Who wouldn’t want a “real life” experience in the Safari before committing to a $10K of travel cost?  Large hotel chains like Marriott and Thomas Cook are gearing up to create their own VR experience and giving their customers first peek before they arrive. 

Not only Marriott launched its “VRoom Service”, Discovery channel also launched its Discovery VR initiative and let you swim with sharks, ski downhill (although this makes me sick), or learn to forage for food via a phone and Google Cardboard.

2. Films & Entertainment

Last week, I finally got the chance to experience the Void’s Ghostbusters experience in New York. I felt that I was the actual Ghostbuster holding the proton gun catching ghosts while running around New York. I can feel the suspension bridge shaking and the elevator moving. It was absolutely thrilling. Even better than the actual movie  

3. VR Journalism

Startups like Within and Cryworks have created numerous VR journalism experience for New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Startups like Ryot also make VR film set at a school in Ghana and were able to raised $1.9 million during an annual gala.  Imagine you are sitting on stage during the Clinton & Trump debate instead of watching it from afar.

4. Real estate

Real estate shoppers can now “walk” around the properties and peek out windows to envision how their future home would look like via tools like Matterport and Toursler. Traditional real estate companies like Coldwell Banker, Halstead and Zillow are also catching on and providing their customers virtual home experience before dropping millions to purchase a new property.

5. Education

I got the chance to play with zSpace a few months and it was absolutely amazing. Using their special glasses and monitor, I was able to manipulate the heart, turn it around and do cross-sections search. They are now selling these medical training apps to hospitals and medical schools.

Google’s Expedition Pioneer Program and Nearpod VR also provide guided tours of places where school buses cannot go or startups like Unimersiv for history lessons, Immersive VR Education science and space learning, 

6. Healthcare and paging Dr. House:

Specialists are expensive and typically patients have to go to them to get surgery. But what if Doctors could do surgeries remotely using robotic tools and VR headsets? It would revolutionize and help democratize cutting-edge surgeries. Loyola hospital is using SnowWorld VR video to help with treating burn victims during wound care and physical therapy. Startup like Psious is also helping people face their fears, from spiders to heights to public speaking by using immersion VR therapy.

7. Sport / Live Streaming

This is still a little way to go, but companies like NextVR and Cryworks are working very hard to provide real time and live streaming experience for VR. Can you imagine seeing the Warrior games live sitting at courtside but you are really in the comfort of your home? That would truly be amazing.

8. Shopping

I want to see how I look in red, green or black in different environment and the VR is the only way that can shopper the instant gratification of trying things on without actually doing it.

9. Virtual fitness

Imagine you can train and swim with Michael Phelps and golf like a pro with Tiger Woods. Startup like StriVR is providing VR training for college and professional football teams.

In additional these existing use cases, I would also love to see the following use cases to happen:

10. Virtual Reality Search

Imagine you are in a VR environment and you say “I am in New York and I am hungry for burger”, it should immediate search and take you to the best burger joint in New York. Not exactly like beam me up Scotty…but I believe the future VR search will take you to anywhere in the world anytime you want.

11. Virtual Reality Office Space and real time conference call

Why bother to even go to work if you can work remotely and virtually. You could feel like you are just in the office and be able to do real time conversations with your colleague in the next cubicle.  

12. Virtual reality storage

Home videos have been relegated to boxes in the attic, but what if you could BE in the house you grew up in, next to your grandmother. In twenty years it will be amazing to go back and relive memories.

13. Virtual reality city planning

Imagine you can walk around a city that not yet exists. VR will be lower cost tool for city governments and urban planners to create the new worlds.

14. AR contact lenses

Why even brother with a smartphone if your contact lens can directly detect and find you all the Pokemon. Companies like Samsung already applied for some of these patents. I can definitely see physically embedded lower-powered sensors and chipsets could become another exciting enablers for mixed reality.

15. Virtual Reality Dining 

There’s dining in the dark. But what about dining at the top of Mount Everest or underwater, next to a coral reef? Or watch your food being prepared as you eat it. Experience your food in a new way.

16. 4D experiences 

If you’ve read Ready Player One or any other VR sci-fi then you’ll have heard about haptic suits and VR that engages the senses beyond sight and hearing. Touch and smell are on the horizon.

I look forward to meeting founders who are as excited as I am in creating the future.  What other use cases are you hoping to see in the future? Let us know in the comments!

Together, we can make this virtual world a reality.    

For more predictions as well as a closer look at the current state of VR, check out my slide deck The Virtual World is Calling: 18 Predictions and New Realities

Disclosure: I am an investor in Penrose Studios and Cryworks. I asked the founders if they would give me the opportunity to invest in them. And fortunately they said yes 🙂   

How to Invest “Smart Money” — 4 Lessons Learned

I recently attended VC Unlocked: Secrets of Silicon Valley Investing, an investor training program run in partnership with 500 Startups and Stanford Center for Professional Development. The two-week program took place July 25th – August 5th, 2016, and a class of 28 participants dove deeply into the world of tech, understanding fund dynamics and hearing from seasoned experts.

My big takeaway was that along with all the attention and hype startups are garnering around the world, there is still a large gap in the knowledge available to investors entering the space.

We hear a lot about “dumb money” and to avoid it like the plague, but is that it? As a former educator I believe not – and so here are a handful of tips for new investors from VC Unlocked to make your money smarter:

1. Understand the market/ecosystem you are investing in

Copying and pasting a playbook from Silicon Valley directly into a different region will not get you the startup ecosystem you hope for. It’s taken a while for this message to make its rounds, but it’s important to know that building up the key components are what matters; Do smart founders, early and later stage capital, legal and other services, and exit opportunities exist in your market? If not, how will you as an investor traverse those voids?

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Bedy Yang and Mary Grove speak about building ecosystems around the world.

2. Educate yourself and peers on good etiquette and best practices

Unless you imagine yourself solely generating your own deal flow and funding your companies throughout their lifetimes, you will find yourself working alongside and benefiting from the participation of the rest of the startup community. It is in your best interest to play well with others, and this applies to how you manage the interests of and your relationships with LPs, fellow investors, and entrepreneurs.

Good behavior could be saying “No” quickly and kindly to founders that do not fall within your investment thesis, having a discussion with your LPs about recycling management fees, or understanding which terms are investor vs. founder friendly.

Your responsibilities as an investor will include:

  • knowing what you are buying
  • how to navigate and properly negotiate terms
  • what part you play in being a constructive board member beyond just writing a check

The good news is, there are many thought leaders and content around these topics that you can find online, and even better news is my colleague will be sharing a post devoted to the best ones!

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Jeff Clavier shares his fund’s journey.

3. Know your value proposition as an investor

“Why you?” is a question investors are often heard asking founders, but it is just as important for investors to ask themselves both for fundraising as well as deal flow. During one of the sessions, David Hornik of August Capital said, “If you don’t have dealflow, you don’t have anything.”  Echoed by Constance Freedman of Moderne Ventures, she pushed for differentiating yourself from other investors.

Whether it is your industry expertise, personal network, or unparalleled access, investors should be able to articulate how their assets power their investment criteria. Jeff Clavier of SoftTech VC encouraged everyone to have “a clear schtick” because at the end of the day smart founders will optimize for investor-market fit.

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Capturing a great session with Jason Calacanis

4. Be transparent with others, honest with yourself

This tip will go a long way, allowing you to attract the best relationships, utilize your time efficiently, and build your brand.

“Be clear about your investment filters and make sure they are known by founders, investors, everyone.”

Dave McClure tells us, “Be clear about your investment filters and make sure they are known by founders, investors, everyone.”

This will help you avoid pitfalls of herd mentality or just falling in love with the problem the company is solving, as well as not wasting meetings with founders you would never back.

Another area of transparency that requires some introspection was brought up by Mary Grove of Google for Entrepreneurs, who said that while it’s widely known that diversity fosters innovation, she pushes investors with the question of “What are you doing to brand yourself or understanding of your own biases?”

Lastly, Jason Calacanis of Inside.com and LAUNCH spoke to always giving back to founders with something constructive, regardless of his investment decision. For each meeting, Jason shared that he takes time to thoughtfully respond to the founder(s) with feedback on what was positive and candid concerns around potential challenges.

While this is not an exhaustive list of how to be a more valuable investor, it’s a start to what is a long journey journey ahead should you choose to become one.

As far as 500 Startups is concerned, this is the way we have guided ourselves in our various ecosystems and how I’ve tried to reestablish our presence in New York. It was never about blindly setting up an office, but rather working alongside all the other great organizations that are building up the meaningful pieces of the tech scene. The response has been wonderful so far, and I’m looking forward to bringing some of 500’s larger programs and resources to New York.

Keep your eyes out in the coming months for more announcements!

Our 2016 VC Unlocked class
Our 2016 VC Unlocked class

How to Use PR + Thought Leadership to Grow Your Startup

Editor’s Note: This post is a continuation of The Art of the Press Release, and comes from Conrad Egusa, CEO of Publicize and a 500 Startups Mentor specializing in media relations and PR. 

PR can be invaluable for startups — not only as a one-time bump in growth but also for long-term amplification of your good efforts.

In today’s post, Conrad talks about how startup can extend the PR halo beyond initial “buzz” and establish a foundation of thought leadership to influence customers and potential investors.

So your business doesn’t have an announcement but you’d still like some media coverage? Given the constant need to stand out from the host of other startups and businesses, it makes sense to promote your name and business as much as possible. After all, maintaining a public presence is an important factor of any successful business. But how can you make a media appearance when you haven’t got anything new to announce, or say?

As previously explained on the 500 Startups blog, good Public Relations – that is, PR – is all about honing in on a space and making it your own. Strong PR processes are upheld by two core pillars on which successful campaigns rely; announcements via press releases and guest articles. While we previously focused on press releases, it is important to recognize that PR is not just about announcing things. It is perfectly possible to build and maintain a credible public image by way of the second pillar of guest articles.

Guest articles help founders, CEOs and other business owners to become industry leaders in their own right. Establishing yourself as an authority on a given subject, or about a specific industry, is an excellent way of ensuring future press coverage and media attention later on.

But what’s the best way to write a guest article? And how can you ensure that you pitch it to the right publications?

How to Really Leverage Guest Articles

Guest articles serve as platforms to offer insight, opinions and advice, or even to weigh in on a current industry debate. As an example, if you have an accounting company, by authoring an article on where you see the accounting industry heading in the upcoming years, you position yourself as a thought leader in the space. You’ll also find that publications will be more likely to quote you in the future as your thoughts are online.

The scope of these articles are limited solely by your own knowledge, experience and, of course, your imagination.

Executed properly, guest articles draw attention to you and your business. They lay the foundations for solid social proof link – the means by which you build a strong reputation – and future media coverage. Being a known entity will help encourage media attention for later press releases and announcements.

True Thought Leadership

All guest articles need an original and interesting idea behind them in order to be successful – after all, nobody is going to read a re-hashed argument about something that has been discussed a hundred times already. This is what is known as thought-leadership. The aim of a guest article is to put forward your thoughts and opinions in an authoritative manner that establishes you and your business as a pioneer in your industry. As such, it is incredibly important to think about what you want to write and say; do your research beforehand.

Similarly, keep your article plan within your field of expertise. Sure, you might have a ton of opinions about who should be the next president of the United States but, if your expertise is about SaaS companies, no one is going to want to read them.

Remember to not be self-promotional as well. Think about what you know is happening in, or affecting, the industry that you work in. If you founded an accounting software startup, it would be too self-promotional to author an article about your company, however you can think about and discuss industry trends and/or problems, or what you have learned as a founder in this space, which will indirectly benefit your company.

If you don’t have any ideas for guest articles, we recommend starting by asking yourself these questions:

  • What are three things you’ve learned about your industry that you hadn’t known when you’d first started?

  • If you could give your best friend advice for your company’s industry, what would it be?

  • Which 3-5 trends do you see impacting your industry in the upcoming years?

An example topic for Entrepreneur Magazine is below:

 

Target for Publishing

Next you need to think about which publications you ultimately want this article to be published on. A scatter gun approach is not going to work here, and you won’t be able to have it published by more than one publication. In targeting your article, be realistic: if you’re company focus is a niche topic, it probably won’t be accepted on bigger or more mainstream publications. Most publications follow specific formats and look for certain lengths as well.

When targeting these publications think about your and their target audience. Are they compatible? If not, find a publication that is more closely aligned to the theme you are writing about. For example, if you are writing about advice for founders, pitch to a publication such as Entrepreneur Magazine. Don’t waste precious time chasing titles based on their name or size if they have nothing to do with your sector.

Send “On Spec”

Once you know what you want for your article, it’s time to start writing. It’s important to send a finished article to editors, not a draft, or an introductory email asking if you can write one. This is known as sending an article ‘on spec’. This means sending a full and completed article for editors or journalists to read and assess. I repeat, this does not mean sending a draft for feedback.

The people you end up pitching to do not have a lot of time, so don’t waste precious interactions by clumsily introducing yourself, or your idea.

A mistake first-time founders make is first writing to an editor with only an article idea, and then not receiving any responses back. You can pitch only article ideas down the road once you’ve established a relationship with an editor, but for your first article it is important to have it finished. Finish your article completely, then send it to potential publications. Which leads on to…

…Pitching

Pitching a guest article is different to pitching a press release. As previously mentioned, you will only be able to publish your guest article on one publication. If you send it to more than one and they both publish, prepare to be blacklisted for future articles.

In pitching the article, make sure to provide editors with a rundown of the argument and an introduction as to the background and expertise of the author. Do your homework and double check that the publications you reach out to have a track record of publishing guest articles and that your article is written in their house style.

Below is the email we sent to TechCrunch to ask if they would publish our guest article.

 

“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”

The old adage is true – by adding a photo of you and/or your team, you provide another layer for your audience to identify with. There are countless unidentifiable entrepreneurs and CEOs out there who could increase public awareness of their profile by publishing photos of themselves and their companies alongside their articles.

Images and videos are more powerful mediums of communication than text; using them alongside guest articles will only serve to boost the impression you are make to potential customers and investors.

With the proliferation of smartphones and other devices it has never been easier to take your videos or photos of you and your team. Still, if you want the ultimate professional touch, hire a photographer to take some photos of you and your team.

Sharing and Content Distribution

Like with successful press release pitches and the resulting news stories, once your guest article is published you need to share it far and wide. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are great platforms to promote your newly published piece but you should also email your article to investors, clients and employees to further engagement. If you have a company blog, you can also post a link to your guest article there, ensuring that anyone visiting your website will also have a chance to see it.

Once your article is online we also recommend re-posting it on platforms such as Medium.com and LinkedIn. It is important to first publish the article on the publication, as a site will likely not publish your work if it knows it had earlier been published elsewhere.

Conrad Egusa is the CEO of Publicize and is a Mentor at 500 Startups, specializing in PR and the media. He periodically contributes to publications including TechCrunch and Forbes. Conrad was earlier a writer for VentureBeat, and prior to this founded an angel-investor backed startup in Silicon Valley.

From “Here, Take my Money” to Investing with Vision

We just finished up our 3rd investor training with Stanford Center for Professional Development and we are on a roll!

The highly diverse mix of participants spent two weeks unlocking the secrets of venture capital investing and refining their investment theses.

They participants finished the program with a much clearer vision of where they are going and how they plan on getting there.

They also left with a certificate from Stanford, a maroon baseball cap and a crazy, fun group of friends and future co-investors that were very excited about their new investment theses!
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The Venture Capital Unlocked program ran from July 25th – Aug 5th and was held at Stanford University and the 500 Startups accelerator in Mountain View.

Diverse Geographies + Diverse Investment Backgrounds = Magic

Even though 500 Startups purposely designs its program to attract diverse participants, this time we actually had at least one representative from every continent except Antarctica (maybe next time?).  

Of the 28 participants, 70% came from outside the United States and 40% of the class was made up of female investors.

Participants came from a variety of investment backgrounds, including angel investors (30%), representatives of existing venture funds (26%), accelerator fund managers (18%), family offices looking to expand into tech investing (16%), government funds (5%), and investors with a social impact focus (5%).

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Before joining the program, most participants had executed somewhere between 0 and 20 deals, with the average person having made 5 deals. As a class, they already have over 100M raised and ready to invest.  

Most of them plan on raising more and deploying about 150M over the next 3 years, with an average of 30 deals per person.

200% Increase in Confidence in Investment Thesis

During the program, 500 Startups investment partners and Stanford professors helped participants rethink their investment theses and strategies.

At the beginning of the program, only about 25% of participants reported feeling confident or very confident about their investment theses.

They started the program with investment theses such as, “I invest in companies referred by trusted friends.” Another participant said, “To date, my investment thesis can be best described as ‘here, take my money’. In the future, it’ll be ‘you can have my money only if you fit my investment thesis’.

However, throughout the two weeks, many people took the time to really ask themselves hard questions about their investment strategy and the strengths they bring to the table.

By the end of the program, 73% of class had significantly changed or refined their investment theses, and 70% reported feeling very confident about their new thesis.

Participants presented their Investment Theses to 500 investment partners, Stanford professors and fellow participants
Participant Investment Thesis Presentations to 500 investment partners, Stanford professors and classmates

Strengthening Investors’ Opportunity Assessment Skills

The program’s agenda was packed with back-to-back activities in which participants developed their opportunity assessment skills, interacted with founders at 500 Startups’ Preview Day and Demo Day, and engaged in lively debates among themselves about the merits and drawbacks of startup deals.

They dove into cap tables and term sheets, analyzed the legal and financial considerations of running a fund, and looked at how to help founders with M&A and exit strategies.  

The investors also got to hear from some of the top VCs in the Valley. Their favorite session by far was a shark tank-like session in which Jason Calacanis, one of the most active angel investors in the world,  interviewed 2 founders from our current batch. He asked the founders many tough questions and revealed in a “sportscaster” style side commentary how their answers sounded to investors.

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Jason Calacanis and Dave McClure share their words of wisdom with program participants

What Participants Had to Say about the Program

Participants said the program helped them structure their previous knowledge of venture capital and increased their investing confidence.

They left the program with an incredible network of friends and partners who will help them on their journey as new VCs and angel investors.

Here is what some of our participants had to say about the program in their own words:

- Bonnie Lo, Partner at NewQuest Capital Partners, Hong Kong
Bonnie Lo

VC Unlocked is a great introduction to Silicon Valley startup investing.  Its an opportunity to access some of the top investors in the community and hear from them their experiences first hand.  For those who are interested in raising a fund to invest in start-ups, this is a great introductory course. Touches on structure and considerations of fund raising, as well as investment approach. Helps those who have some idea on their investment thesis to hone in on their thesis and strategy.  The class is very diversified and helps to build bridges with like-minded investors across the globe. There are almost 50% women and 12 countries represented!

– Bonnie Lo, Partner at NewQuest Capital Partners, Hong Kong

Sharif El-Badawi, Partner Lead, VCs and Startups at Google, Mountain View, CA
Sharif El-Badawi

VC Unlocked brings together the brightest emerging investors from around the world for an intense immersion into the intricacies of academic and real world venture capital. Students learn from Stanford professors, industry legends and evolve their investment theses in real-time while getting a chance to engage with real startups and founders at Demo Day.  

– Sharif El-Badawi, Partner Lead, VCs and Startups at Google, Mountain View, CA

JP Duque, Founder at Cantera Capital, Mexico
JP Duque

VC Unlocked delivers a powerful mix of world-class academics (Stanford) and insightful, actionable advice (500 Startups and many notable guest speakers) – in a candid, off-the-record environment. Learning from and building a network with my classmates, a global and diverse group, was equally rewarding. I highly recommend VC Unlocked if you are serious about VC.

– JP Duque, Founder at Cantera Capital, Mexico

Kenza Lahlou, Co-founder of StartupYourLife, Morocco
Kenza Lahlou

VC Unlocked was a truly unique and valuable experience for me. I learned a lot and met incredible people both on the team and participant sides. It helped me clarify my vision and investment thesis, answer the questions I was asking myself and double my confidence in what I want to achieve.

– Kenza Lahlou, Co-founder of StartupYourLife, Morocco

How Might A Clinton Presidency Affect Silicon Valley?

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is Part 2 of a two-part series that examines how the U.S. presidential race could affect Silicon Valley innovation, an ecosystem that’s affected by economics, immigration policy, international relations, and other factors.

These positions were publicly stated by each campaign; instead of characterizing proposals as good or bad, we’re merely speculating on their impact.

Part 1 looked at the potential outcomes affecting Silicon Valley from a Trump presidency; today, a look at Hillary Clinton’s Tech & Innovation agenda.

Hillary Clinton’s positions on innovation and tech are well-documented and generally reflect prevailing industry attitudes. This is likely because the candidate’s campaign team includes former government officials with tech backgrounds, as well as executives and entrepreneurs. Today, we’ll dig into the details, and the exceptions.

1. Use Federal Grant and Loan Programs To Jump-start Startup Ecosystems

To promote greater regional, gender and ethnic diversity in startup funding, Clinton’s plan calls for a national network of “innovation clusters and entrepreneurship hubs” in “underserved areas” that will support 50,000 entrepreneurs.

To free up capital where VCs are scarce or unknown, she’d double spending for Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, which boosts growth in “distressed communities” and the State Small Business Credit Initiative, a $1.5 billion fund. Clinton’s plan would also extend the New Markets Tax Credit, a mechanism created to boost capital flow that’s set to expire in 2019.

Analysis: These efforts could stimulate more regional startup growth, but a President Clinton would need to secure majorities in the House and Senate to fund these programs.

2. Taxes: Eliminate Carried Interest Deduction, Implement “Buffet Rule”

Like her opponent, Clinton has called for an end to the Carried Interest Deduction, which taxes investment proceeds at 23.8%, instead of the higher rate that’s levied on personal income. Clinton said she’ll ask Treasury to make the change if Congress fails to take action, a nod to the fact that Democrats have made multiple failed attempts to eliminate the deduction in the past.

Clinton’s tax proposal also calls for a 4% “fair share surcharge” for those earning $5 million/year, as well as an implementation of the Buffett Rule, which would make sure anyone with an annual income over $1 million paid an effective tax rate of 30%.

Analysis: As with many of her proposals, it could only become law with Congressional Democratic majorities. If enacted, VCs and their partners would receive a smaller slice of payouts; whether that would stifle innovation is anyone’s guess.

3. Defer + Forgive Student Loans To Incentivize Young Entrepreneurs (And Startup Workers)

Clinton hopes to coax more startup founders into the marketplace by giving them the option to freeze payments and interest on federal student loans for up to 36 months “while they get their new ventures off the ground.” To help those founders build teams, she “will explore a similar deferment incentive” for “early joiners, such as the first 10 or 20 employees.”

Founders who launch in “distressed communities” or “provide measurable social impact and benefit” could see up to $17,500 of their student loan debt forgiven after five years.

Analysis: Many Millennials cite personal debt as a leading reason for not starting a business. Combined with other existing and proposed programs created to spur investment in underserved areas, these incentives could produce results.

3. Immigration: “Staple” Green Cards To STEM Degrees, Startup Visas For Founders With Funding

To reduce “visa backlogs and other barriers,” Clinton would reform immigration guidelines to offer green cards to students who receive “STEM Masters and PhDs from accredited institutions.”

If an immigrant startup founder can “obtain a commitment of financial support,” her proposals would create a pathway to a green card as long as a founder agrees to “create a certain number of jobs and reach performance benchmarks.”

Analysis: Without Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and/or a new Supreme Court appointee, it’s likely that her proposed immigration reforms would be defeated.

4. Expand Consumer Broadband, 5G + Free Public WiFi

By 2020, Clinton plans to connect every American household to “affordable broadband” by funding existing programs and by ordering agencies in her administration to consider expanding the use of “fiber, fixed wireless, and satellite” connectivity.

She’s also called to step up the deployment of 5G wireless to “enable the Internet of Things and a host of transformative technologies.” Accelerating the rollout of 5G networks will spur the development of “smart factories, driverless cars, and much more.” To support these efforts, she plans to “reallocate and repurpose spectrum for next-generation uses,” which could include bands in use by federal agencies.

Her agenda proposes a new $25 billion Infrastructure Bank that awards grants for projects that bring more people online, whether it’s by reducing regulatory barriers or developing partnerships between the private and public sectors. Grants would also be available for projects that perform technology upgrades in concert with other infrastructure investments.

Analysis: Reallocating existing spectrum and speeding up 5G rollout could open up new opportunities in telecom and consumer tech. If the Infrastructure Bank becomes a reality, it could expand markets for homegrown startups and established players alike.

5. Open Internet Standards, Defend Net Neutrality

Clinton says she’ll press foreign governments to provide its citizens with access to an open internet free from restrictions, forced technology transfers, and censorship. To govern international standards, she calls for “a global community of engineers, companies, civil society groups, and internet users,” instead of “government-led multilateral organizations.”

Analysis: It’s unclear if a President Clinton would be successful when it comes to promoting open standards internationally; any efforts to do so would likely be rolled into trade agreements, which can take years to negotiate and ratify.

6. Cut “Excessive” Patent Litigation, Strengthen IP Protections + Consumer Privacy

The Clinton tech agenda calls for additional reforms to “rein in frivolous suits by patent trolls” and streamlining Patent and Trade Office procedures to ensure “faster review of patent applications and clear out the backlog of patent applications.”

To cut red tape and orchestrate these efforts, she plans to appoint a Chief Innovation Advisor to “spearhead reforms across the government.” Additionally, Clinton would permit the Patent and Trade Office to keep the money it collects from patent applications and reinvest it in day-to-day operations. (Currently, Congress diverts those fees.)

Without going into details, her plan pledges to protect American IP via Export Control Reform and promote policies that will counter Chinese “cyber-enabled economic espionage.”

Her plan would protect consumer privacy via “regulatory enforcement,” but “without stifling innovation.” To gird US cybersecurity defenses, Clinton seeks to unlock additional funding and build more public-private partnerships.

Analysis: Patent litigation reform is a popular idea, but it’s been hard to accomplish to date, as rules vary between regions.

If Clinton can prevent forum-shopping and can bring more transparency to the litigation process, it may provide some industry relief.

7. Encryption: Greater Cooperation Needed, Not Backdoors

Although her campaign hasn’t officially staked out a position on encryption, Clinton said she supports a “Manhattan-like project” that allows the government and the private sector to work together.

In a December debate, Clinton said she opposed efforts to require tech companies to create backdoors for law enforcement, but wants to see more cooperation regarding data-sharing.

“There must be some way,” she said. “I don’t know enough about the technology to be able to say what it is, but I have a lot of confidence in our tech experts.”

Analysis: None of Clinton’s public statements offer any specifics for achieving greater cooperation between tech and law enforcement.

Conclusion: It Takes a Village

Although Clinton offers more specificity, and innovation-friendliness, in her plans for the tech industry, most of her ideas would be extremely unlikely to come to fruition unless she’s also able to secure Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

Even then, she’d need to retain those majorities after mid-term elections in 2018, which would buck historical trends.

The considerable delta between Clinton’s expressed plans and their execution serves as a reminder of Clinton’s own aphorism, “It takes a village.” Indeed, it takes not only a village but a House, a Senate, and a public to accelerate futuristic promises into actionable reality.

>> Read Part 1, how a Trump presidency would affect Silicon Valley’s innovation ecosystem <<

WANTED: Tall, Rich, Powerful Scandinavian to Invest in Lots of Amazing Nordic Startups and Help Them Kick Ass

In the past year 500 Startups has been expanding our efforts in the Nordics with the goal of bringing Silicon Valley best practices to the region and to help early stage startups grow faster. During this time we have made 27 investments into promising Nordic startups and helped them grow and raise capital. Our focus has been on companies doing e-commerce, marketplaces, SaaS, fintech as well as mobile and AI technologies. We have run two investment programs in the region, one focused on early-stage companies in Oslo, as well as a growth marketing program in Stockholm. We’ve also brought seven of these companies back to Silicon Valley to participate in our accelerator programs.

Some of our Nordic investments include:

  • IRIS AI – An artificial intelligence application that recently raised a $350K seed round after attending our Oslo program. They’re already generating significant revenue and in our humble opinion are one of the strongest teams in the entire region.
  • Timely – A SaaS time tracking solution. They recently closed $1M in seed funding and after attending our growth marketing program in Stockholm are now growing revenue 30% month-over-month.
  • Flic – The wireless smart button with an impressive six figures in monthly sales also recently attended our Stockholm program. Here they were able to improve their web sales and raise additional funding to support growth.
  • Villoid – A mobile shopping app company from Norway recently graduated from our Silicon Valley accelerator program. They have over 650 brands on the platform and continuing to grow.

Last year we announced plans for a regional microfund focused on the Nordics led by myself, Sean Percival. And after working with 500 Startups for three years and investing in over 120 companies, I will be moving on to new adventures — but not Valhalla just yet!

500-Nordics-Demo-Day---Head-Shots---Image-by-Dan-Taylor---dan@heisenbergmedia.com-84

500 is now looking to hire a new investment manager to lead our Nordic efforts with experience in fundraising as well as in finding, investing, and growing promising startups. If you’re interested and want to tell us more about why you’re the right for the job, reach out here. If you’re based in Stockholm you can also speak with Dave McClure or me at the upcoming STHLM Tech Fest in Stockholm on Sept 5th.

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Lastly, if you’re an accredited investor please join us September 4th for Stockholm Demo Day as we feature our most recent and awesome Nordic companies, including those who recently took part in our Distro Dojo marketing accelerator. They’re ready to show off new growth metrics as they prepare to raise Series A rounds. To request an invite please email demoday@500nordics.co.

For further updates on 500 Startups in the Nordics and silly knock-knock jokes about Vikings, please follow @500Nordics and @500Startups on Twitter.

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How Might A Trump Presidency Impact Silicon Valley?

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is Part 1 of a two part series examining how the U.S. presidential race could affect Silicon Valley innovation, an ecosystem that’s affected by the United States’ international relations, immigration policy, and other political factors.

We have attempted to stay away from political preferences and present findings as publicly reported by the candidates themselves.

Part 2 will look at how a Clinton presidency could affect Silicon Valley, and will be published next week.

[Update, 8/14/16: Malcolm McGough, the Trump campaign’s California political director, contacted us after this was posted and confirmed that we stated the candidate’s views on these issues accurately.]

With 87 days left until the 2016 presidential election, we’re taking a look at how the candidates’ policies might impact innovation and the tech industry. In Part 1 today, we take a look at the potential impacts a Trump presidency could have on Silicon Valley.

(Full disclosure: I left a message with the Trump campaign’s San Francisco office, but they did not respond.)

1. Condense Tax Brackets, Raise Taxes On Carried Interest, Repatriate Overseas Tech Wealth

Donald Trump has called for sweeping changes to the tax code, starting with the elimination of federal income taxes on individuals who make less than $25K and couples who make under $50K. Additionally, he’s proposed condensing the existing seven tax brackets into three.

First-bracket earners would pay 12%, middle-bracket workers would pay 25%, and those at the top would pay 33%, instead of today’s 39.6%, said Trump, who also wants to raise the tax rate on carried interest — net capital gains passed through to a fund’s general partner and investment managers.

Today, carried interest is taxed at 23.8%: of that, 3.8% is an investment tax, and 20% is for net capital gains. Under the Trump plan, carried interest would be taxed at 33%, which would reduce earnings for VCs and portfolio managers.

In an August 8 address to the Detroit Economic Club, Trump described the Carried Interest Deduction as one of several “special interest loopholes that have been so good for Wall Street investors, and people like me, but unfair to American workers.”

The New York-based real estate magnate said he would lower the top tax rate for business income from 35% at 15% and would also encourage US corporations to repatriate “trillions” of dollars kept in offshore banks. “Our plan will bring that cash home, applying a 10 percent tax,” said Trump.

An estimate by Moody’s Investor Service said $504 billion of the $1.7 trillion in overseas cash US firms held in 2015 was in the accounts of five tech companies: Apple, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle and Alphabet. If a President Trump could convince these titans to bring those dollars home, the funds could be used for stock buybacks, increased dividends, R&D, distro, and much more.

2. Proposed Immigration Rule Could Ban Startup Founders From US

Although he initially called for an immediate halt to all immigration from countries with majority Muslim populations, Trump has since broadened his stance. This week, GOP Vice Presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence said he and Trump now want “a temporary suspension of immigration from countries or territories compromised by terrorism.

Without a specific list of nations, it’s hard to predict how this might affect the US tech community, which has generally welcomed talent, regardless of one’s country of origin. It’s also unclear whether countries that have experienced terror attacks — such as the UK, France, Belgium, and Israel –would be impacted by this proposed policy.

3. Is Trump Anti-encryption?

It’s unclear whether Trump is opposed to tech firms offering encrypted products, but when Apple refused to help the FBI access an iPhone used by the perpetrators of the San Bernadino terror attack, Trump called for a boycott.

However, CNET revealed that Trump still holds between $1.1 and $2.25 million in Apple stock. Because the candidate hasn’t mentioned the issue since first raising it in May, it’s hard to determine exactly where he stands on encryption standards.

4. Tougher Stance on IP protection in China

According to Trump’s Detroit speech, “improved protection of America’s intellectual property in China would produce more than 2 million more jobs right here in the United States.”

Politico reports that Trump’s stats are from a 2011 International Trade Commission report that estimated 2.1 million new jobs and up to $107 billion in increased sales if China stepped up IP enforcement, but economists aren’t able to quantify the “specific impact of such a policy change.”

5. Make Tech Manufacturing Great Again

“We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers in this country instead of other countries.”

In a January speech at Liberty University, Trump ended with a pledge:

“We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers in this country instead of other countries.”

On several occasions, Trump has criticized firms like Ford and Carrier for shuttering US plants and reopening them in Mexico to lower labor costs. So far, his campaign has not provided a detailed proposal for attracting a large base of high-tech manufacturing jobs that can accommodate global demand for consumer tech.

Tech manufacturers tend to rely on lean supply chains to keep labor costs low and maximize profits, so it’s hard to imagine what incentive they’d have to stop ordering from China, where workers who assemble iPhones earn about $750/month with overtime, according to China Labor Watch.

Since launching his campaign, Donald Trump has continued to workshop policies after they’ve been announced, so it’s not entirely clear which of these ideas he’d attempt to codify. Legislators on both sides of the aisle have long resisted calls to boost capital gains rates, and when the state of Kansas exempted pass-through income from taxation, it blew a hole in the state’s budget. The candidate hasn’t shared details for his manufacturing plan, and many experts agree that his proposed immigration policies “defy the logic of science, engineering and law.”

While it’s impossible to know exactly how a Trump presidency would affect Silicon Valley, or the nation at large, we believe it’s important to look closely at self-reported pledges from each candidate to understand their impact on innovation, founders, and the investment ecosystem.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2: How would a Clinton presidency affect Silicon Valley?

The 7 (Pitching) Habits of Highly Effective Founders

Finding the right investors is like dating — you need to kiss many frogs before you find a prince.  

Today, I’m going to share seven ways fundraising founders can kiss fewer frogs and find more princes (subtle hint: Batch 19 applications are now open).

Habit 1 – Pitch to the Right Investors

Not all investors are created equal.

Some investors only invest in seed investments. Some investors only focus on Series A.  

Before approaching any investors, do your homework and make sure you go after the right target audience.

You can segment them with these 5 characteristics:

  1. Investment stages (seed, Series A, B, C, etc.)
  2. Check size (e.g. $50,000 – $150,000)
  3. How many deals has he or she done in past 6 months (you will find out how active this investor is)
  4. Industry focus (if any)
  5. Geography (most Silicon Valley investors would not invest outside of the Bay Area)

It is certainly quite rare to turn someone who isn’t already engaged in your industry or geography into someone who suddenly cares about what you’ve created.

Habit 2 – Pitch with Purpose

My colleague Andrea Barrica introduced me to this quote by Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

What do you want your potential investors walk away with after your pitch?

Keep that in mind and you very likely will change the story you tell and the way you tell it.

Habit 3 – Curate Your Story

It’s harder to tell a short than a long story.

It’s easy to tell your investors everything that’s happened in your life since you were 3, but whittling that down to what they really need to know is much harder — and much more compelling.

Don’t be lazy, or self-indulgent. Put in the extra 20% effort and curate only relevant and story that make you uniquely over qualify for your startup.

Habit 4 – Pitch like a Professional  

During your pitch, you need to convey two things: 1) why you are the most qualified person and 2) why investors should give you money now.  

Be sure to cover the following if you are ready, but always start with traction & demo if you have it.

Here are 11 things to cover:

  1. Traction, traction, traction
    1. Revenue
    2. User download
    3. User engagement
    4. Major signed partnerships
  2. Product demo (If you have it. You should have it.)
  3. Market size & target market
  4. Pain point
  5. Product
  6. Team (team, investors, advisors)
  7. Technology
  8. Business model
  9. Monetization model  
  10. Competition
  11. Market Trends

Habit 5 – Understand the Big Picture

Most founders I met are in love with their product.  

Unfortunately, as an investor, I don’t just want a person who is in love with himself or herself or their product.

I want a founder who truly understands how to create a business. You should be the one who can tell me everything about your competitors, market, legal environment or policy changes.

Habit 6 – 24 Hour Follow Up

After your first call or in person meeting, be sure to follow up within 24 hours and make sure to cover the following in your follow up email:

  • Thank them!
  • Your deck
  • Current traction
  • Team
  • Action items
  • Your ask
  • Ask for follow up meetings or phone calls

Habit 7 – Show Passion & Honesty

Building a startup is really, really hard work.

As an investor, I want to find someone who won’t back down when things get (even) harder, and is willing to do whatever it takes to make things happen.

A huge part of working hard — and knowing where to work harder — is knowing what isn’t working (yet).

Show your true self, and be honest. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know.” You don’t need to have all the answers, but you do need to have the strength of character and work ethic to figure it out.

Raising The Drawbridge? Brexit’s Implications For UK Startup Founders & Investors

In 2015, 500 Startups Partner Matt Lerner joined the firm so he could lead the London-based Distro Dojo, a growth marketing boot camp/think tank that helps early-stage startups scale up for their next round. When he took the reins, Lerner had many expectations, but the notion that 51% of British voters would soon vote to leave the European Union was not one of them.

500 Startups Partner Matt Lerner
500 Startups Partner Matt Lerner

The UK’s relationship to the EU has been ambivalent for decades, but that hasn’t stopped London from becoming a hub for European startups, said Lerner. Like Silicon Valley, London has access to sufficient money, talent and experience to sustain a startup ecosystem. Brits haven’t imported California’s sunny optimism, Lerner said, but “they have always embraced and celebrated failure.”

The UK and the EU have a couple of years to figure out the political and economic ramifications of Brexiting, which leaves plenty of room for fear, doubt and speculation. Gloom-and-doom headlines forecast recession, thousands of immigrants (like US-born Lerner and his German wife) are wondering about their legal status, and some pundits have started to wonder about the pound’s status as a reserve currency.

Is it accurate to say that uncertainty over Brexit also comes with a fair amount of hype?

Yes, definitely.

Do you have a clear sense of what’s going to change for you?

Short term, investors don’t like uncertainty. You saw how the stock market got rattled, and I have seen a few people sort of trimming their exposure. I say that anecdotally. A few founders have told me that someone has dropped out of a round here or there, or that they’re unable to close a round because of Brexit.

Your Distro Dojo portfolio is tied to the almighty dollar, which bodes well, I presume.

As an investor, I believe that saying, ‘you should be greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy.’ My attitude is, we’re investing out of a US fund, so if the pound gets weaker, then we get more company for our dollar.

Any other upsides from Brexit and the disruptions it’s creating?

If there are fewer VC at my stage in London, then I’ll get access to more and better investments at lower prices, so for me, this makes me optimistic. At this point, nothing’s changed that would make these companies less investable.

For startup founders who are deciding whether to launch in London or Dublin, what would tip a person towards the UK?

That’s the long-term question. You need talent, you need money, and you need customers. In terms of talent, UK immigration policies are a big unknown. Right now, any European can move to the UK, no problem. What they could do is move to a merit-based system like the US has, where you can move from anywhere to the UK, but you need to be talented, you need to be successful.

That might be better for startups, in the sense that you have more of the best and brightest from China, India, and from all over the world. That could mean more of the highest caliber talent, which would be good. You’d get less cheap labor, but startups don’t tend to use cheap labor in the UK anyway.

What’s the impact on startup funding in the UK, post-Brexit?

It’s much easier for startups to get funding than anywhere else I know of in Europe. There’s truly a lot of money in the UK, and people move their money into sterling because it’s a bit of a reserve currency. A lot of it is made available to startups through some very generous tax incentives for early-stage startups. Right now, the easiest place to raise money is the UK.

Is it just a language and culture issue? Why is the UK so startup-friendly?

The legalities of incorporating and raising money is very easy to do in the UK; I’ve invested in Irish, French and German companies, and it’s a lot harder. As a VC, all things being equal, you’d rather put your money in a place where everyone’s going to spend less money on legal fees. Things will happen there.

Distro Dojo kickoff

What about access to customers post-Brexit? How will leaving the EU impact startup growth and customer acquisition?

That’s a bit more concerning. Today, as part of the EU, the UK’s got instant, automatic access to all of the European markets, as well as any markets it’s negotiated trade agreements with. If they leave the EU, they’l have to find and negotiate new trade agreements.

Where else might a European startup founder go besides London and Dublin?

You’ve got startup hubs in Stockholm, Lisbon and Berlin. It’s not like Silicon Valley, where if you want to leave, there are no viable alternatives for thousands of miles. Get on a flight in Dublin, and you can be in Berlin in an hour. Talent is super mobile these days.

One company we’ve invested in, they’re British incorporated, but they’re based in Berlin, because you can get better, cheaper talent there. It’s a fairly trivial thing at an early stage to move a company.

When you talk to other UK tech investors, what’s the mood?

Everything is wait and see. People are watching their customers and their numbers to see how things go. We don’t have too many companies at this level that depend on trade agreements at the moment. And talent is very pragmatic day to day; a lot of times, they’ll just hire someone who’s remote in another country, anyway.

You haven’t made any long-term predictions.

Long term, I am pessimistic. The UK is a net exporter, and like most countries, they generally tend to benefit economically from immigration. Brexit can hurt both of those things; it weakens the pound and reduces its appeal as a reserve currency, which will lead to a net outflow.

We’re getting into macroeconomic theory, but on balance, my prediction is pessimistic. I just think we’re moving so quickly.

More on Distro Dojo: