What the greatest technology investors say about Competition

There's No Science to Early Stage Valuation

Fred Wilson venture capitalist and Co-Founder Union Square Ventures

“There is no science to early stage valuation.  It’s simply a matter of supply and demand.  So generate a lot of demand and you'll get a good price.” Fred Wilson, Valuation and Option Pool comments, Nov 6, 2009;

Successful Entrepreneurs have these Qualities

Mark Suster Partner Upfront Ventures and former entrepreneur

 Suster believes successful entrepreneurs have these qualities:  “1. tenacity, the most important [].  2. street smarts []” including “[] know[ing] [] how customers buy and how to excite them [], [an ability to] spot opportunities that aren’t being met and [] design products to meet these needs. []”. “3. ability to pivot []” which “[] might just be a totally different business model.[]”  “4. resiliency  []. 5. inspiration [].  6. perspiration [].  7. willingness to accept risk []. 8. attention to detail [].  9.  competitiveness []. 10. decisiveness []. 11. domain experience []. 12. integrity  []”.    Mark Suster, Entrepreneur DNA, December 15, 2009; What Makes an Entrepreneur (2/11) – Street Smarts December 16, 2009

What Makes an Entrepreneur (3/11) – Ability to Pivot December 17, 2009



Be Leary of Too High a Price

Mark Suster Partner Upfront Ventures and former entrepreneur

 “[] [Suster has] seen a destructive cycle where otherwise interesting companies have been screwed by raising too much money at too high of prices and gotten [] [trapped] when [] markets correct and they got ahead of themselves [on inherent market valuation]. []

[It’s] OK to [] shoot for the “top end of normal” for the market conditions. [] [He] caution[s] entrepreneurs from [] raising money at significantly ABOVE market valuations. []

If [entrepreneurs] haven’t figured out product / market fit and therefore still have a highly risky business [they] run great risks for getting too far ahead [] on valuation. [] [Most] investors won’t want to [][do] a “down round,” which creates tension between them and early investors.

[] [Sophisticated] investors know [a major down round] is fool’s gold.  They get a cheaper price, [] wipe out much founder stock value and [] reissue [founders] new options. [Founders] take the money []” except their incentives get eliminated.

[] He advises “[] us[ing] competition to [][ensure] a fair price [and] rais[ing] a slightly higher round than [] [otherwise for some strategic reserve]. [] [One wants] to show an uptick in valuation [] for new investor confidence and to maintain [early investor relations].”  Mark Suster  Why Startups Should Raise Money at the Top End of Normal,  June 5, 2011;



No Great Science to Determining Valuations

Mark Suster Partner Upfront Ventures and former entrepreneur

 “There is no great science to [how prices (valuations) are determined].  The earlier [one] invest[s] the higher the chances the company won’t work out and thus [one] pay[s] a lower price than later-stage investors. [An investor tries] to pay the appropriate price for [his] perceived risks of the company succeeding and protect [himself  if] it isn’t quite as valuable as [he] had hoped.  As the risks [] get eliminated the higher the valuation investors are prepared to pay.”  These risks over time are “[first] product [], [then] market [], [then] growth/scale [] and [finally] monetization/competition [].”    Mark Suster, Why Startups Should Raise Money at the Top End of Normal  June  5, 2011;

Social Proof is Powerful

Naval Ravikant angel investor, Co-Founder AngelList and Venture Hacks and former entrepreneur

“[Ravikant] measure[s] four dimensions [in startups for AngelList]:  Traction, Team, Social Proof and Product.” (AngelList is “a closed private social network [where] startups and angels [come] together.”)

“[] social proof refers to who else is involved [] as an investor and/or advisor. Which person has already given them the thumbs up is really important.  If any one of those people who is associated [with] the company is phenomenal it [the startup] passes the filter [selection criteria] [].

[] Social proof is [] powerful []. [] Get one great person to commit to your startup and you will have more control in raising your round. This is a tactic I have seen many startups use to start a bidding war or get the funding process rolling.”   Naval Ravikant, Naval Ravikant and AngelList: The of Funding [Interview] by Fatema Yasmine, February 17,   2011;


The Biggest Mistake Entrepreneurs make when Raising Money

Babak Nivi Co-Founder AngelList and Venture Hacks and angel investor

Nivi says “the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when [] raising money” is that “[they] focus on valuation when they should be focusing on controlling the company through board control and limited protective provisions.   (Protective provisions let preferred shareholders veto certain actions, such as selling the company or raising capital.)

Valuation is temporary, control is forever.  For example, the valuation of [a] company is irrelevant if the board terminates [the founder] and [he] [loses his] unvested stock.

The easiest way to maintain control of a startup is to create good alternatives while [] raising money. If [the founder is] not willing to walk away from a deal, [he] won’t get a good deal.  Great alternatives make it easy to walk away.

Create alternatives by focusing on fund-raising: pitch and negotiate with all [] prospective investors at once. This may seem obvious but entrepreneurs often meet investors one-after-another, instead of all-at-once.

Focusing on fund-raising creates the scarcity and social proof that close deals.  Focus also yields a quick yes or no from investors so entrepreneurs can avoid perpetually raising capital.”  Babak Nivi, What’s the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make? , October 14th, 2007; Why do investors want protective provisions? August 2nd, 2007;

Success is Fragile - Be Paranoid

Reid Hoffman angel investor, Co-Founder & Executive Chairman LinkedIn and Partner Greylock & Ben Casnocha entrepreneur

 “[] the overriding problem [for the U.S. auto industry’s decline] was [that it] got too comfortable.  As Intel cofounder Andy Grove once famously proclaimed, “Only the paranoid survive”. Success, he meant, is fragile- and perfection, fleeting.  The moment you begin to take success for granted is the moment a competitor lunges for your jugular.  Auto industry executives, to say the least, were not paranoid.”  Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha, The Start-up of You (book), pg 15