Archive for September 2010
Congratulations to our first class of graduates: Accevia, Black Swan Solar, fountainhop, Loki Studios, Motion Math, Naquatic, & Tixxme. Their presentations and progress impressed our mentors and attendees, and set the bar high for future classes. We are pleased with how the event turned out, from Brad Garlinghouse‘s keynote to our panel on Incubators & Accelerators featuring Cameron Teitelman, George Zachary, Harj Taggar, Ryan Spoon, and Tim Lee.
|John Lilly is the CEO of Mozilla Corporation. He joined Mozilla Corporation in 2005 as Vice President of Business Development, and, since 2006, has served as COO and a member of the Board of Directors. Prior to this, Lilly was the founder, CEO, CTO and VP of products for Reactivity, a software company acquired by Cisco Systems in 2007. Previously, he held staff positions at Apple, Sun Microsystems and Trilogy Software. Lilly has been an active participant in open source projects, serving on the boards of the Open Source Applications Foundation and Participatory Culture Foundation.|
Tonight John Lilly, Asheem Chandna and David Thacker from Greylock Partners joined us for dinner at 395 Page Mill. He engaged our teams with an interesting discussion on entrepreneurship as well as Mozilla’s history and vision. A few of his recommendation to new entrepreneurs are:
- “I’ve gotten my ass kicked a lot; its about longevity.” It’s always good to be reminded that successful entrepreneurs don’t give up.
- “Try to find things that make your soul sing.” We’ve heard from a lot of our mentors and speakers that you need passion to succeed, but this was a great new way to relate passion as an emotion.
- If you find good people, hold on to them and stay close to them. These are people you’ll know years down the line, and you never know what opportunities these relationships may lead to.
- “Scared” isn’t a business term.
Thanks to our generous Greylock hosts for putting us in touch with John; we appreciate the help and insight you’ve been able to provide to our teams.
Based in Palo Alto, California, Jean-Francois “Jeff” Clavier is the Founder and Managing Partner of SoftTech VC, one of the most active seed stage investors in Web 2.0 startups. Since 2004, Jeff has invested in more than 50 consumer Internet companies in areas like social media, communities, search, gaming or consumer infrastructure, almost exclusively in Silicon Valley.
Jeff’s many years of experience with startups gave him a great background to provide useful insight on monetization to our teams. Some of his advice that was especially pertinent to our teams included:
- raise money if you can – the huge startup boom means that hundreds of startups will be looking to fund their companies and waiting too long could be risking a bottleneck effect.
- if utilizing ads, choose the method of advertising carefully, based on audience size, demographics, psychographics, time engagement of the user, and the company stage. For instance, it is not always intuitive when to switch from using ad networks to rep firms to doing direct sales.
- if building a game, monetize as quickly as possible considering the short shelf lifetime of most games.
Thanks so much to Jeff for coming in to talk to the teams about monetization.
For more than a decade, David Hornik has worked with technology startups throughout the software sector. In 2000, David joined August Capital to invest broadly in information technology companies, with a focus on enterprise application and infrastructure software, as well as consumer facing software and services. David also runs VentureBlog.
David was a great dinner guest, telling the story of his unusual path to being a VC, including his time at Stanford University earning a degree in computer music, his career as a lawyer at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and how he came to join August Cap. He shared with us a lot of insight on what he’s learned throughout his career, and few highlights of the night were:
- Just work with people you like. Don’t give money to people you don’t like, don’t take money from people you don’t like; life is too short.
- Regarding entrepreneurs that he looks to invest in: “I don’t want to bet on people who need me to do anything, because they should be better than I am.”
- Everybody’s a critic, especially his 13 year-old son.
The teams thoroughly enjoyed hearing about his experiences, relayed with his great sense of humor. Thanks so much to David for joining us at dinner, and also spending time afterwards to talk with our teams – we look forward to seeing you in the office again soon.
|Gary is a partner in Dorsey’s Labor and Employment department and is based in the firm’s Silicon Valley office. Gary has helped defeat labor organizing efforts on behalf of clients, and has successfully litigated a wide variety of employment cases involving race, sex, disability, and age discrimination, as well as wage and hour and other employment-related causes of action. He provides clients expert advice and counseling with respect to a wide range of employment law issues. Gary has also established a nationwide training practice, conducting programs for managers and employees on employment-related topics such as “Managing within the Law” and “Preventing Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace.”|
Today Dorsey & Whitney, one of our sponsors, had Gary Gansle come in to our office to hold a workshop on Employment Law. His presentation was both informative and entertaining, and introduced important laws and good practices for managing employees to our teams at SSE Labs. There are many nuances within Employment Law that startups get wrong 9 times out of 10, and we would recommend any current or prospective founder to invest in meeting with a lawyer specializing in Employment Law before they even begin recruiting potential hires.
Rebecca Lynn joined Morgenthaler‘s Menlo Park office in 2007, and she focuses on early-stage investments in mobile, health 2.0, Internet services and financial services. She serves on the boards of Lending Club and Practice Fusion, and she is second on the boards of Adara Media and Autonet.
Rebecca’s past experience and her current board positions gave her a perfect background to talk to our teams about choosing and managing a board of directors successfully. Her workshop on this topic emphasized these key tips:
- Keep boards small, from 3 to 5 members.
- Choose board members extremely carefully, taking into consideration all of the following: time commitment, interest, expertise, network, and personality fit.
- Avoid people who are investors but do not choose to invest in your company. These people can make great advisors but not official board members.
- Set ground rules about what kind of decisions need board approval, and which board members deal with specific types of issues.
- Form a unified vision for the short-term future (1 year) of the company, regarding hiring and expenses, product timelines, burn rate, etc.
Thanks so much to Rebecca and Morgenthaler for their involvement with SSE Labs. It was another really informative workshop, and the teams gained a lot.