Monday, February 29, 2016

Our 5 Favorite Startup Digest Reading List Articles From Last Week

5 hand-picked articles from across the Startup Digest Reading Lists. Sign up to receive great weekly content on various topics from expert curators.

 

1. I Grew Up Poor in a Rich Person's World

By Deborah Chang

Digest: Startup
Curators: Zubin Chagpar & Chris McCann

"Entrepreneurs are generally driven to solve the problems they themselves have experienced. The problem with the vast majority of entrepreneurs coming from middle or high income backgrounds is that the problems they choose to solve are not necessarily the ones of greatest impact." Read More

More from this reading list: http://ift.tt/1ndQfh6

 

2. Did you miss Startup Grind's Global Conference?

By Startup Grind

Digest: Women Entrepreneurship
Curators: Babs Lee & Lilibeth Gangas

Missed the largest startup conference in the US? No sweat – check out the plenary session on demand. Read More

More from this reading list: http://ift.tt/1SdWQ81

 

3. Teens have a smart reason for abandoning Facebook and Twitter

By Felicity Duncan

Digest: Product
Curators: Sophie-Charlotte Moatti & Reza Ladchartabi

New data shows that teens are moving from broadcast social media to narrowcast. Read More

More from this reading list: http://ift.tt/1ndQd8Z

 

4. The Crowdfunding Guide

By Fundable

Digest: Crowdfunding
Curator: Michael Ryan Norton

A general overview of the elements of crowdfunding and a practical step-by-step guide to building your own campaign. If you think crowdfunding might be the right route for your business, this is a great place to start. Read More

More from this reading list: http://ift.tt/1SdWSwS

 

5. Someone is pretending to be the IT guy at Hogwarts and it's hilarious

By Stephen Daw

Digest: Education
Curators: Aurelio Jimenez Romero, Vicky Guo & Deborah Chang

Meet the Tumblr account bringing WiFi to Harry Potter. And, you thought you had it rough… Read More

More from this reading list: http://ift.tt/1ndQd91

 

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If You Haven’t Done This, Your Brand Won’t Matter

Welcome to Mentor Mondays! Today we welcome Chicago mentor, Suzanne Muchin. 

You landed on a name you can own, secured the web address, designed a logo, and maybe even arrived at a tagline. The process was fun and creative—lots of white board drawing and Post-its on the wall. It was more art than science, which was a nice break from the grind of digging into the numbers, programming, UX testing and fundraising. You can now breathe a sigh of relief and move full speed ahead with your marketing and the all important customer acquisition strategies.

But here's the thing: if the description above sounds familiar, then you haven't actually built a brand, and eventually, that problem will haunt you.  Like a piece of pottery that was put into the kiln without properly wedging the clay, your company may look great on the surface, but when the heat is turned up, you'll be sorry you didn't apply the right techniques to ensure your brand's long-term strength and competitive advantage. While there are many branding techniques and constructs that are helpful to early stage ventures, there's one process that simply must come first:  nailing your Point of View (POV).  So let's break this down and send you on your way to a more solid brand position.

What is a POV? It's a hard-hitting, pointed perspective on what you're up to that captures the essence of your entire value proposition. It nails your story in a way that feels high stakes and distinctive.  A POV carries you all the way from the so what (what's the problem we're here to solve), to the so that (when our customers utilize our product/service, they will experience this outcome), to the so then (and that matters because…?).  It lays claim to something fundamental that you believe, and also clearly suggests what it is that you reject (this might be an approach that your competitors are taking, or perhaps a market reality or cultural trend you see as harmful).

When you get this right, it will feel like new lenses that you never take off.  Everything suddenly comes into focus. You'll see all aspects of your business through this perspective. You'll find yourself talking about your POV in different ways all day long.  And the pointed part? It needs to be so distinctive that when people hear it, they will stop in their tracks and think about it. It should make some people angry.

Here are a few Techstars' companies POVs to consider*:

Great video game streamers use our platform to monetize their followers, because everyone deserves an opportunity to make a living doing what they love. – GameWisp

Optimized routes for intelligent pick-up and delivery businesses are great for your bottom line and for the air we all breathe.  Routific

While these may seem like simple statements, they are anything but. Consider the brand promises they are making, the distinctive way they identify their customers, and their clear explanation for why they think what they are doing matters.  

Great brands aren't built by brainstorming. They are developed with a strategy that insists that founders and company leadership are as focused on what is at stake if they fail, as well as if they succeed.

*These aren't the official "POV's" of the companies, but reflect POV work I've done with these Techstars teams in Chicago.



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Friday, February 26, 2016

What I Wish I Knew Before Techstars

Techstars was incredible. In fact, I've already written two other blogs "Words, Words, Words" and  "The Magical and Diverse World of Techstars" where I share some lessons from my time there.

Now that it's been several months since the program, I want to share from the CEO perspective the one thing I would have done differently prior to entering Techstars.

Now, there's no doubt in my mind that Techstars was incredibly beneficial to our growth. It allowed me to meet with incredible mentors and during your time at the accelerator, important contacts are even willing to come to you to meet.

The program is three months long and is broken down roughly like this:

– 1st month: Mentor Madness AKA Mentor Whiplash. This is a solid month with the most brilliant people in their fields giving you advice in 30-minute increments and it's ABSOLUTELY INSANE.

You will walk away from this first month, or at least I did, more confused than when I started, but with some really awesome mentors who are in it for the long haul.

– 2nd month: Execution. You get one month to go full force and literally accelerate your business as rapidly as you can. How are you able to get so much done so quickly? You're able to accelerate because Techstars is there to help you access every and any resource you need.

– 3rd month: Preparations. This really kicks into full gear for Demo Day. Demo Day is a very big deal. Don't lose your mind. Until you nail it, they will keep pushing you to get better and better.

Here's what I didn't anticipate: building relationships with investors doesn't happen overnight, and it rarely happens in a month.

I walked into Techstars thinking that they would give me access to the investors I wanted to meet. What I had not considered was the time it would take to build those strong relationships.

Everything worked out wonderfully for us. I am very lucky to have formed such a strong relationship with Seth from the Foundry Group because three months post Techstars, we closed a $3 million round with them. But here's the thing, I knew Seth from before. In fact, even before we were accepted into Techstars, we had done our seed round with Seth as our lead with the FG Angels.

So as a CEO, if I were ever to do an accelerator again, I would do my research ahead of time.

I would have walked into Techstars on day one with a list of researched VCs and have a clear reason for why I believe they would have been a good fit for us and why we would be a good fit for them.

Then on day one, I would have given that list to my MD, along with the person I believed would be ideal to contact in their group and then asked for introductions. This would have given me three months to work on building a relationship with them versus trying to find the time to do all this in the madness that ensues during those three months of acceleration.

As a first time CEO, I had never thought of these things, but hopefully this helps you prepare to use your time as effectively as possible while in your accelerator program. If nothing else, it forces you outside of your comfort zone and that's where the true growth comes from.

Best of luck!

[Application deadline for the next session of Techstars programs is March 20th. Apply now for Atlanta, Retail, Chicago, NYC, Mobility and London.]



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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Barclays NYC 2016 Applications Open

I am excited to announce that we have opened applications for the second Barclays Techstars Accelerator class in NYC!

Start your application right here for our Summer 2016 class.

Fintech is arguably one of the hottest areas in tech right now and we're excited to be in the thick of it, at our accelerator space Rise NYC. Many disagree on exactly what technologies or business models fit in the category of fintech. To us, if a business can disrupt or innovate a financial services company in any way, we are interested.

From payments to lending, security to blockchain, capital markets to data and analytics, the opportunity to partner with a top tier bank like Barclays is incredibly impactful.

Don't take our word for it, hear from a few of our founders themselves at our recent demo day: Liveoak, Chainalysis, Rangeforce and Seeds.

To learn more about the upcoming NYC program, attend one of our information sessions or apply for office hours:

Meet Techstars in Person: (more events coming soon!)

March 1

SF

Office hours at RSA

March 1

6:00pm – 9:00pm ET

NYC

New Finance Meetup with Techstars

March 4

SF

Office Hours at Launch

March 7

6:00pm – 8:00pm ET

NYC

Open House at the Barclays Techstars Accelerator with the Financial Solutions Lab

March 9

10:00am – 4:00pm ET

NYC

Office Hours

March 10

6:00pm – 8:00pm ET

NYC

Fireside Chat w Enigma co-founder Marc DaCosta

Catch us Online:

March 2

  12:00pm ET

Webinar Registration

March 16

  12:00pm ET

Webinar Registration

March 30

  12:00pm ET

Webinar Registration

Key Dates:

  • Applications Close – April 10th
  • Program Begins – June 20th


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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

7 Sources of Startup Seed Capital – from Friends & Family to Billion Dollar Funds

When thinking about financing your startup, it is important understand different types of potential investors.

Not every wallet is right for you.

Figuring out who to raise money from and why will save you time and yield better results.

1. Friends and Family

Often times the first check comes from a family member or a friend. In theory, it is a lot easier to close them because they already know you. In practice, sometimes this is awkward, and may lead to awkward situations in the future.

For example, if a friend gives you $10K and the company goes belly up — you may lose this friend.

Think carefully before taking money from family and friends. It can be awesome, or it could be bad. Every situation is different.

Another thing is that friends and family members may not clearly understand the risk and how startups work. Take the time to educate them, and if they get it and still want in, then you are all clear.

2. Angel Investors

Angel investors put $10K-25K-50K-100K (lower is more common), and can participate in priced or debt rounds. Angels can be very valuation sensitive. It is important to distinguish between active / professional and occasional angel investors.

Ask them how many deals they do per year and look them up on AngelList. If someone only does a few deals a year, only talk to them if they have approached you, someone gave you a warm intro, or they have relevant experience and background in your space. Otherwise, infrequent investors should not be on your target list. Occasional angels will take longer to close and will be more flaky.

Active / Professional angels will do at least 6 deals per year, and usually more.

Expect to close them within the first 1-3 meetings. It is totally fine, and a good idea, to ask them if they are interested at the end of the first meeting.

Before you meet an angel, understand what they are interested in. Read their AngelList profile or ask via email to make sure it is a fit. Don't go after people randomly – it will be a waste of your time and their time. Confirm with whomever introduces you that the introduction makes sense. Target well.

3. Angel Groups

An Angel Group, as the name implies, is a bunch of angels investing together and sharing deal flow. Angel Groups can do priced rounds, and if a significant percentage of the angels in a group get interested, they can lead your deal.

Angel Groups meet regularly and have a regular pitch process.

Some do more due diligence than others, but typically several members of the group will be assigned to do the diligence if your initial pitch goes well.

Your check will range from $50K to $500K typically, and you will end up with every individual angel on the cap table. That is, these groups are not syndicates, and unlike AngelList Syndicates, they don't have carry fees. Angel Groups are also valuation sensitive, and will typically price the rounds lower compared to VCs.

4. AngelList Syndicates

AngelList Syndicates are the most effective way these days to raise money on AngelList. Syndicates are formed by influential angels, and range from a few hundred thousand to over a million.

The key thing is to identify angels who have these significant syndicates on AngelList, and get in front of them.

If you can get such an angel excited, he or she will run the syndicate. For example, the angel might put in $50K, and then another $250K will come via a syndicate for a total of $300K raised via AngelList. Note that the amount raised via syndicate varies and is not guaranteed.

5. Micro VCs

This is either an individual writing $100K+ checks or more likely a firm with $10MM-50MM under management. The individuals are basically angel investors with a bigger sized check. They will commit to invest or will say NO after 2-3 meetings. They may lead and be comfortable doing either debt or equity.

Micro VC Funds will likely take longer, and would not be too far off from a typical VC. You will likely need 3-4 meetings to get to a decision.

Micro VCs in NYC typically do $250K – 500K and can price and lead your round.

Micro VCs do care about ownership and ability to follow on, but to a lesser extent than VCs. They are not looking for 20% of your company, more likely 8-10% and re-up in the next round (depending on the size of their fund).

Like with angels, you need to decide whether a specific Micro VC is right for you. Spend time studying their portfolio. Some specialize in SaaS, some are focused on Consumer, some in e-commerce, some in infrastructure. Not only do you need to understand each fund, you need to understand each partner.

Partners have different experiences and focus areas and they have different preferences for companies as well. Target specific partners in a specific fund. Carefully research their portfolio and see if it is a potential fit.

6. VC

Traditional VC firms have fund sizes ranging from $100M – 500MM. For seed deals, they would do as low as $250K (atypical) to as high as $2MM. Most likely $500K – 1MM would be their sweet spot. They really care about percentage of ownership, and would likely only do the seed if they think they can do Series A as well. That is, they would want to buy up the ownership to be at 15%-20% after series A.

Another thing that is critical for every fund to understand if they are currently investing: Some funds may not have the capital because they are in between funds, but they would spend the time with you anyway. It is probably not the best use of your time though.

Figure out who will be the partner on the deal. With larger firms, it is not always obvious. Look at how many companies they are involved with and ask them how many companies they typically manage. In a 150MM – 300MM fund, a partner would have 8-12 companies at any given time. 10 is really a lot.

If the partner is already busy, they won't invest even if they like you because they are at capacity.

Research how many investments the partner has to understand your chances.

Ask them what their process is like and how to best follow up. Each firm may have a unique process and you need to understand it upfront so you can know what to expect. Set up clear next steps and follow ups. Be direct, and ask if they are interested in continuing the conversation. Try to avoid the vague state of MAYBE. If yes, then what is the next step – meeting, etc. NO is okay, you will get a lot of those. NO is better than a MAYBE.

7. Mega VC

Mega VCs are firms that have over $1BN under management. These include Andreessen, Khosla, Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia, Bessemer, etc. Some of them do seed investing, but recognize that the seeds for these guys don't move the needle at all.

Research whether the fund has a seed program. If they do, figure out who runs it and what the process is.

It is likely that there is a partner in charge of seeds and the process is compressed compared to raising more capital.

Recognize that VC funds need to deploy large amount of capital per deal to be able to return their massive funds. Rather than spending time trying to get their attention for your seed round, it may make more sense to start building relationships with them for Series A and B.

This post originally appeared on Alex's blog



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Announcing the Techstars Boston Spring 2016 Class

We are excited to announce the fourteen companies that will be joining Techstars for our Spring 2016 program in Boston. We kicked things off this week on February 22 and are looking forward to three months of awesomeness, capped off by Demo Day on May 25.  Save the date!

This is the 10th program in Boston, and we're fortunate to have many of our alumni on the ground as well as over 100 incredible mentors. Thank you, mentors! We're grateful for your support over the last 7 years and your continued time and guidance. We couldn't do it without you.

We love this city and know 2016 is going to be an amazing year for both Techstars and Boston.

Without further ado, here are the Techstars Boston Spring 2016 companies:

AirFox: We dramatically reduce the cost of mobile service for carriers and consumers around the world

@_airfox

Daily Pnut: A daily email on international news that informs and entertains you

@dailypnut

Danger!Awesome: Retail makerspaces bringing high tech tools and creative education to consumers

@dangerawesome

Grapevine: Our platform connects consumer brands with the most relevant and influential social media stars

@grapevinelogic

Heddoko: The first smart compression suit that tracks full-body movement in 3D and gives you real-time feedback

@heddoko

Navut: Marketplace that connects people planning to relocate with local experts

@realnavut

Polis: Easy and scalable door-to-door outreach software for campaigns and organizations

@polis_app

Rare Pink: A bespoke engagement ring retailer helping clients across the globe design unique and meaningful engagement rings

@rare_pink

RocketBook: Magical pen-and-paper notebooks designed for our digital world

@rocketinno

Seed&Spark: Crowdfunding and distribution platform for indie films

@seedandspark

Spoiler Alert: An online marketplace and brokerage tool for discounted food sales, food donations, and organic waste opportunities

@myspoileralert

Strobe: We build technology that enables event organizers to create live experiences for the 21st century

@strobelabs

TapGlue: A platform that easily turns every app into a social network

@tapglue

YayPay: Fast invoice collections and accounts receivables management

@goyaypay



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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Day I Quit My Job to Start My Company

August 18th, 2008

The day I quit my job.

"Hi Ed, I've decided to work on my company full time and won't be starting in NYC on my scheduled start date next month."

"Sorry to hear that, Alex, we wish you the best of luck on your new music venture. Robyn will send over paperwork and we'll need you to return the signing bonus."

Ed was the Chief People Officer of the management consulting firm I was scheduled to join in NYC in September of 2008. I had signed my offer letter in January of 2008, winter of my senior year. I had my NYC roommate figured out, opened a NY bank account, and was so excited to move to New York City, but that was 8.5 months earlier. That was before I'd taken Troy Henikoff's entrepreneurship class and started working with David Hoffman and Samir Rayani. Before we'd launched nextbigsound.com, before we'd raised $25k, and before I realized that instead of consulting, business school, more consulting and then starting NBS, we had already started it!

I quit my job, mailed back the $10K signing bonus, and told my friends I wouldn't be joining them on a summer trip around the world or moving to NYC. David and Samir were starting their senior year at Northwestern. I moved into David's spare bedroom for a month or two and then downtown with three friends who had just moved in with one another. At this point my task was simple: to raise $150k seed round for a streaming music site as a 22-year-old recent graduate and first time entrepreneur.

Anyone alive during the Fall of 2008 knows what happened next. The economic apocalypse hit — sending the economy into the worst dip since the Great Depression.

The timing of this recession, right as I was entering the workforce and starting Next Big Sound, has made a deep and lasting impression on me. Like a plant in the desert that adapts to survive on very little water, we started our business with a very specific set of environmental conditions and thought it might always be that way. Given my starting reference point, the monster seed rounds of 2010-2015, the seed and A prime-prime-primes, the proliferation of angels, and the accelerator explosion have all been pretty mind-blowing to watch.

As if a rainforest has bloomed in the desert. I love what the last 5-6 years have done for entrepreneurship, technology's impact on the world, and the proliferation of strong startup communities — but I'm curious if 2016 will be the year where I'll get to see what a sustainable temperate climate looks like, in between the desert where we started and the rainforest that roared to life.



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Announcing Techstars Seattle Class of 2016!

We are excited to announce the nine companies that will be joining the Techstars Seattle 2016 program. This is our seventh year of Techstars Seattle — past classes have helped launch the success of companies like Remitly, Outreach, Bizible, Leanplum and Apptentive — and our program offers accepted companies access to the strongest ecosystem of investors, mentors, founders and corporate partners in the Pacific Northwest.

As with past cohorts, our 2016 class embodies the best of our regional innovation ecosystem, tapping unique centers of excellence like space / satellite communications, data visualization, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs / drones), online gaming, retail and enterprise SaaS. The program begins on Monday, February 22 and culminates with a Community Demo Day on May 18th, where the companies will pitch their solution and seek investments from top Pacific Northwest angel investors and venture capitalists.

The nine companies in the Techstars Seattle Class of 2016 are listed below:

Beam: connecting gamers through interactive live streaming

DroneSeed: replanting forests safer and 10X cheaper. Using drones.

Fig Loans: affordable credit for low income families.

Keepe: efficient marketplace connecting Property Managers & Contractors.

Kepler Communications: real-time access to space borne data.

Reflect: embedded analytics for your app.

Shyft: shift swapping made easy.

Subcurrent: a Slack bot for collecting simple and powerful feedback at work.

Validated: free shipping for yourself!



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Monday, February 22, 2016

Our 5 Favorite Startup Digest Reading List Articles From Last Week

5 hand-picked articles from across the Startup Digest Reading Lists. Sign up to receive great weekly content on various topics from expert curators.

 

1. Disabled musicians create music from brainwaves

By Tim Muffett

Digest: Music
Curator: Katie Chase

Disabled musicians given an interface to write once again and hear their compositions. Amazing. Read More

More from this reading list: http://ift.tt/1oyj34M

 

2. Google Computers Defeat Human Players at 2,500-Year-Old Board Game

By Jack Clark

Digest: Artificial Intelligence
Curators: Bjorn Larsen & Nitzan Hermon

Jack Clark at Bloomberg, whose reporting on AI is some of the clearest and most technically rigorous going, explains why a Google computer system beating a master-level player of the game of Go matters:

The systems used by Facebook and Google were not preprogrammed with specific if-this-then-do-that code or explicitly told the rules. Instead, they learned to play at a very high level by themselves. These techniques can be adapted to any problem "where you have a large amount of data that you have to find insights in," Hassabis said. Read More

More from this reading list: http://ift.tt/1Tw3VAP

 

3. 3D Printed TSA Master Keys Leaked from a photograph

By Bruce Schneier

Digest: 3D Printing
Curator: Dilanka Wettewa

If you weren't aware of this screw up, you are in for a treat. Late last year, The Washington Post accidentally used a picture of the TSA Master Keys in one of their articles and guess what happened? Someone designed 3D Printable replicas of those master keys and released them on the internet. Read More

More from this reading list: http://ift.tt/1oyj4Wj

 

4. How BuzzFeed's Jonah Peretti Is Building A 100-Year Media Company

By Noah Robischon

Digest: Media Models
Curator: Holly Knowlman

To me, it feels like Buzzfeed had their game plan figured out long ago. It's great to see them take the lid off about their philosophies on getting things in place. Read More

More from this reading list: http://ift.tt/1oyj2Ok

 

5. 25 Epic, Must-Read Blog Posts About Fundraising

By Alex Iskold

Digest: Startup
Curators: Zubin Chagpar & Chris McCann

Alex has consolidated various epic funding blogs by experts on the topic. Worth bookmarking. Read More

More from this reading list: http://ift.tt/1Tw3VR7

 

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What Job Titles Mean in Venture Capital and How Entrepreneurs Can Navigate Them

This week's Mentor Monday post is from Suranga Chandratillake, a mentor with our Berlin program.

Venture Capital can be an opaque industry. Everyone can read about investments and exits, but few are familiar with how it all works behind the scenes. This post will aim to demystify certain elements of the industry and, in doing so, shed light on how founders and CEOs can use this knowledge to their advantage.  In this post, we'll start with the people and their job titles, asking the question:

Partners, Principals, Associates & Analysts: What do all these people actually do?

 

a) Partners

Venture Capital firms are rarely 'companies.'  They are more commonly a form of limited partnership that is owned by the Partners of the firm. Therefore the 'Partners' of a VC firm are in fact the owners of the firm, and so have control over the capital that gets invested. Different partnerships are structured differently – some, like mine, are formed of equal partners, others have some form of hierarchy and while that can have an impact on entrepreneurs, that's a topic worthy a separate post.  When there is a hierarchy, you'll come across a number of self-explanatory secondary titles such as Managing Partner (the boss) and Junior Partner (not quite so boss).

The key thing to remember is that the partners are the people who can sponsor a deal. In other words, they can suggest that the firm makes an investment in a company, and recommend that the firm take a vote (usually at a 'partner meeting') to decide whether the investment is made.

If you have a connection to a partner in a venture capital firm, then this is the best starting point, as you'd be dealing directly with the person who would end up suggesting that the firm invests into your company. However if you don't know anyone at partner level, this doesn't mean that the door is closed…

b) Principals

Principals are senior members of the investment team. In addition to helping the firm discover and meet the industry's most promising entrepreneurs, they also work very closely with companies after investment.

The principals do not usually lead deals (with very rare exceptions), however, they are trusted, long-term members of the team. As an entrepreneur, time spent building a relationship here is not time wasted. They have the ability and influence behind closed doors to hook you up with critically useful meetings and introductions. And, beyond investment itself, Principals are often highly networked, thoughtful players in the technology startup ecosystem that can usually help in a multitude of other ways.

c) Associates

Associates are slightly more junior members of the investment team who are usually in their role for 2-3 years. After this period, they are occasionally promoted to Principal, but they more regularly leave.

Associates do not lead investments, but they are typically visible at events and workshops. Their job is usually externally facing and involves meeting with a large volume of companies, providing a first filter and bringing the more relevant cases to the attention of the principals and partners.

Given this role, Associates are crucial gatekeepers. If you can meet and resonate with an associate, they will open the door to the senior members of the investment team.

I've come across entrepreneurs who can be dismissive about Associates.  It's true that there are others who are more senior to them in any given firm and, given their background, few will have a track record as impressive as the entrepreneur him or herself, but they are trusted, valued members of the team – if they are your only connection to a firm you think would be relevant to your company, then they are an excellent starting point.

d) Analysts

Analysts are the most junior members of the investment team. They usually have two or three years of previous experience, most typically in banking, consulting or at a startup. As an entrepreneur, it's unlikely that you'll meet an analyst in the wild, as they are usually desk based, and they have less decision-making power than fellow members of the team.

More likely, if the firm is digging deep into a sector, you might get a call from one. Beware that in these cases the aim is often due diligence of a market when the firm is thinking of investing in a related company, but this is, at very least, a way to get your company onto the firm's tracking system.

And how do I get an introduction?

 

a) Directly to a Partner

If you are in the fortunate position of knowing a partner or a principal, then great, you can start there directly.  One mistake I've seen is that people will hold off meeting with a partner until their pitch is utterly perfect.  Most investors invest in lines, not dots and so you don't necessarily have to do this. Of course you need to be good at communicating what you do, but over-preparing is probably not as valuable as building a relationship.

If you don't know a senior investor directly, here are a few more thoughts on what to do next.

b) Angel Investors

If you aren't connected to a partner but have an angel investor who is well connected, go through the angel.  Most Partners and Principals spend a lot of time with angels (and others who typically invest earlier than them) and so often trust a recommendation from this source extremely highly.

c) Blind in-person meetings

If you are struggling to connect via your network, your next best bet is to meet someone at the team (likely an Associate up) in person.  A great deal of early stage investing begins with a genuine connection with the investment team, and so if you meet someone in person you will both be able to test that connection automatically.  As mentioned above, Associates, Principals and Partners all spend a great deal of their time externally. So follow them on twitter, find out which events and conferences they're attending, and get yourself a ticket. Also, If you're currently part of an accelerator programme or coworking space, keep an eye on the mentoring programme. Various members of venture teams often host workshops and mentoring sessions.

d) Blind Emails Suck

The corollary of blind in-person meetings being good is that blind not-in-person emails suck. At Balderton, we receive around 20k such emails each year, and while we are careful to spend time on each and every one, the lack of a human connection means that it can be super tough to evaluate whether a company is one we believe we can help.

Useful?

Let me know if you found this post useful – and if you have any questions, please comment below or  get in touch on twitter at @SurangaC.

 



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Announcing the 2016 class of the Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars!

We are excited to announce the ten companies that will be participating in the 2016 Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars in Kansas City. We kick things off this week on February 22 and are looking forward to three months of amazing progress, capped off by Demo Day on May 24.

This is the third program in Kansas City and Sprint has continued to be a fantastic corporate partner. We're also fortunate to have the support of both returning and new program mentors. We're grateful for the time and guidance you provide to our companies. We couldn't do it without you. Thank you mentors!

We love Kansas City and know 2016 is going to be an amazing year for Techstars and KC!  

Without further ado, here are the Sprint Accelerator 2016 Techstars companies:

Backstitch: Backstitch makes corporate intranet communications personalized, relevant and actionable. From Detroit, MI.

Karmies: Innovative AdTech platform that monetizes emojis by making them smart and branded. From Denver, CO.

Leka: Leka makes an interactive, multisensory robotic ball that greatly enhances therapies for special needs children. From Paris, France.

Mycroft: The first open source, voice-driven, AI platform for the connected home and beyond. From Lawrence, KS.

Nozzle: A marketing analytics platform that provides on-demand customer acquisition reporting and timely alerts. From Lehi, UT.

Responsive Ads: Reimagining the best possible fluid ad creatives for screen, user and context. From New York, NY.

SocialCapital: SocialCapital automatically generates accurate personality profiles by applying AI to social and online behavior. From San Francisco, CA.

SpaceView: A mobile augmented reality platform that visualizes real world products in virtual spaces. From Portland, OR.

Stride: Stride.AI uses advanced sentiment analysis to enable businesses to translate their textual data into actionable insights. From Bangalore, India.

Super Dispatch: A platform that enables automotive logistics companies to eliminate paperwork, manage loads, drivers, and billing all in one place. From Kansas City, MO.



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