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!
VCunlocked2

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

PreMoney 2016: The Global Investment Community Crosses Paths in San Francisco

PreMoney Brings Together US + International Angels, VCs, LPs

Eric Osiakwan, Managing Partner with Chanzo Capital in Accra, Ghana, traveled more than 7,600 miles to attend PreMoney San Francisco.

“The world is flat,” he said, sipping a Coke immediately after his panel discussion, “Crossborder Investing: Let’s Go Global, Baby.”

“When I started in tech in 1998, one of the terms that really rang in my ears was ‘the global village,'” said Osiakwan. “Today, it’s very real.”

Eric Osiakwan and Jill Ford
Eric Osiakwan and Jill Ford

How real?

Earlier in the day, Osiakwan bumped into Jill Ford, Head of Innovation & Entrepreneurship for City of Detroit. “We first met in Ghana in 2002,” he said. “I didn’t know she would be here! After I finished my lunch, I was walking out and said, ‘I know you!'”

“This was actually a wonderful surprise,” said Ford, a former Bay Area angel who now manages a team attracting and nurturing startups and SMBs in the Motor City.

“PreMoney should be mandatory for new investors.'”

– Jill Ford, Head of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, City of Detroit

“I’ve been a great supporter and a big fan of 500 Startups for a while,” she said, noting that she and Osiakwan would meet again the following day at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. “I was very excited to add PreMoney to my trip, and I’m always so excited when I get to see the kind of content that we had today and a fascinating set of speakers.”

Although Ford has lived in Detroit for years, she said 500 Startups’ social media and events keep her connected to the latest startup news and trends.

“I’m very excited about what they’ve been doing to promote diversity in tech and also have a global reach with regard to connecting entrepreneurs and investors,” she said.

PreMoney should be mandatory for both new investors, and more experienced hands looking for insight, said Ford.

“This is the forum for bringing together entrepreneurs and investors from a large geographic scope to really be the launchpad for great innovation, great ideas and being able to grow startups,” she said.

Content From Global Investors

“This is my second PreMoney,” said Monique Woodard, Venture Partner with 500 Startups, “so I’ve come to expect a high caliber of content from some of the best investors in the business. That’s consistently what 500 and PreMoney delivers.”

Like every other person I spoke to, Woodard’s favorite session of the day was “the three generations of Drapers. Getting to see them interact as a family — and not as investors — was heartwarming and gave us a little insight into the family,” said Woodard.

“I also got a lot out of Jason Calcanis’ time,” she added. “Every time Jason talks, I learn something new.”

Who should attend PreMoney? “As a newbie investor, I would say any newbie investor,” answered Woodard. “You will learn a ton of stuff from a ton of people who have been doing this for a really long time.”

“Every time Jason (Calacanis) talks, I learn something new.”

– Monique Woodard, Venture Partner, 500 Startups

The June 2016 PreMoney gathering “really set the bar higher than the event I attended last year,” she added. “I enjoyed seeing some investors I know, hearing their thoughts on where the industry is going, and I expect to have a really good time at the party this evening.”

“I learned a lot, even being internal to 500,” said Sheel Mohnot, FinTech Partner at 500 Startups. “There was a panel on vertical funds that went very well, and it’s always entertaining to hear Jason Calcanis and Dave McClure. I just wish I could have gone to everything.”

Fireside Chat with Dave McClure + Dave Morin
Fireside Chat with Dave McClure + Dave Morin

“Recently, there’s been more of a focus on cross-border, which is I know, inherent to 500’s focus, but they’re bringing some interesting characters and players who are doing some interesting things that you don’t really see anywhere else, even in San Francisco,” said Mike Prasad, Managing Director for LA-based incubator VentureLab.  “I come here mainly for that, because it doesn’t really exist at the other events I’ve been to.”

“Increasingly, it’s becoming a globalized event, and it’s going to be the best thing that ever happened to Silicon Valley,”

“Increasingly, it’s becoming a globalized event, and it’s going to be the best thing that ever happened to Silicon Valley.” concurred Osiakwan.

“Casual Vibe” at PreMoney Encourages Learning & Relationships

“PreMoney San Francisco has one of the best mixes of people in the VC scene,” said Prasad, “Getting them all in one room, I can’t think of another event that has that kind of mix.”

“Investors of any type should attend,” Mohnot advised. “There’s so much to learn from what other people are doing. They’re clearly so much more fun and not boring,” he said. “You can actually stay awake during the whole thing.”

PreMoney is a great way to get the view from 30,000 feet, and also for doing deep dives, said Prasad. “It’s interesting to see what people are looking at and get the general feel of the room where their heads are at,” he said. “I don’t really know of another way to do that, short of talking to tons of people over the course of a year.”

“PreMoney is very useful for getting information and a good time out of the event, but it’s also something you can jump right into.”

– Mike Prasad, Managing Director, VentureLab

Additionally, Prasad said PreMoney is a unique networking opportunity. “All these people globally who are in VC are in town at one time, which is great.” The ability to participate in open discussions with other investors is also a strong draw, he said.

“You get someone on stage who’s looking at a trend, and then you get the immediate response from someone else, and seeing that dynamic is telling,” said Prasad.

Mike Prasad, VentureLabs
Mike Prasad, VentureLabs

“The last thing is relationship building,” he noted. “We don’t do any deals here per se, but historically, a lot of the relationships that we build here have led to that.”

Typical for a 500 Startups event, “it’s a casual vibe, but it’s not something like you feel it’s a joke,” said Prasad. “People are very serious and doing cool things, but it’s not like you can’t talk to people and have an open conversation. It feels very casual, because there’s no reservations per se.”

That openness creates a fertile environment for exchanging data and ideas, said Prasad. “If you’re someone who’s new to VC, it’s definitely a good event to get perspective for thinking about things you haven’t considered before,” he said. For more experienced investors, “the knowledge transfer there is also interesting.”

“PreMoney is very useful for getting information and a good time out of the event, but it’s also something you can jump right into,” said Prasad.

“I think it’s one of Dave’s best events.”

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