We Lead or We Participate

Over the years, I’ve been in many multi-party negotiations. I don’t know the maximum number of participants in a single negotiation, but I’m sure it’s greater than ten active negotiating parties in a transaction. I don’t mean the number of entities participating in the transaction, but the actual number of active negotiating entities. The best way to figure this out is to count the number of different law firms involved in the transaction. We shifted our behavior some years ago. Often, we lead deals. When we lead, we negotiate the terms. We work collaboratively with any other co-investors, but we’ll take the lead. But, if we don’t lead, we follow. This can be tricky, as our instincts (or ego) can often get in the way since we are used to leading deals. Or, the lawyers can get confused about what our real goals and intentions are in the negotiation. We always have
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The Generic VC / PE Reference Questions For An Executive Hire

I’m on the receiving end of a lot of reference calls. I try to be thoughtful and direct in my responses, but I’m increasingly annoyed by the generic nature of the questions. Over time, I’ve developed an approach to doing reference checks, and they actively avoid asking any of the following questions.
  • How did you get to know Person X?
  • What is your relationship to Person X?
  • What were Person X’s different roles?
  • How does Person X rank concerning leadership ability?
  • How does Person X rank concerning analytical ability?
  • What about Person X’s vision and ability to communicate it to others?
  • Was Person X well respected by the people he managed?
  • What are Person X’s strengths?
  • What are Person X’s weaknesses or areas for development?
  • Would you hire Person X again? If so, what size company?
  • What other questions should I have asked?
  • Are there any things you would want
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The Second Reboot VC Bootcamp

On Saturday night I got on a plane and flew to the other side of the planet, where I am now. I’m in Melbourne, finishing my coffee, getting ready for one last meeting here before I fly with David Cohen to Adelaide for the day. When I left, I had the voices and energy of 25 people in my head. Last Thursday evening was the beginning of the second Reboot VC Bootcamp at my house just outside Boulder. Amy and I have a second house on our land, which we refer to as “the Carriage House” and the Reboot gang calls “Chez Feld.” The first floor is an event center that we use for non-profit events. The second floor was going to be a man cave, but my idea of a man cave is carrying my laptop around the house wherever Amy goes and sitting down next to her.
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Fred Wilson on Reserves

Fred Wilson has a spectacular post up on how VC funds should think about reserves. It’s even more valuable to entrepreneurs so they can understand how the best VCs think about reserves, giving the entrepreneurs ammunition to ask their investors how they are thinking about reserves. I only noticed one thing missing from Fred’s post which is a statement about cashflow which I commented on.
“Fred – phenomenal. The only thing I noticed missing was a comment on fund cash flow. To recycle, you have to have the cash flow. If you don’t have the exits to generate funds to recycle, you can hit a cash flow wall where your reserve model breaks (since you don’t have the cash to fund the reserves.) There are several solutions to this, including recalling capital, having an annex fund, and suspending management fees, but the best is having the cash in the Continue reading "Fred Wilson on Reserves"

Board Seat For Sale

I had lunch recently with a founder. We were talking about current and future board configuration for his company and he said “Up until this point, all my board seats were simply for sale. Whenever a new investor showed up, they wanted – and got – a board seat.” I loved the phrase “board seat for sale.” It’s exactly the opposite of how I think about how to configure a board of directors, but I recognize that it’s a default case for many VCs and, subsequently for many entrepreneurs and companies. It’s a bad default that needs to be reset. I wrote about this a lot in my book Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors. In the past few years there have been some interesting changes. In pre-seed and seed stage companies, there’s been a trend against having board of directors. Instead, there
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Q316 State of Venture Capital Update With Cooley

Each quarter Cooley does a VC market update. This quarter they interviewed me as part of it on Quarterly VC Update: Brad Feld on the State of Venture Capital InvestingThe full Cooley Q3 report includes a bunch of data and trend graphs which I encourage you to go take a look at. The interview with me follows.

Based on Cooley data for the quarter, how does your experience in the market compare?  Similar/different?

The tone of Q3 felt like a continuation of Q2 with summer vacations tossed in. The existential freakout that occurred in January and February seemed like the distant past with the lingering hangover being a clearer focus on valuation and overall funding needs from new investors. While there are a few clear trends in the data, such as lower valuations for Series A through C rounds and more flat rounds, the overall changes from
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