Bothsides of the Table

I was watching my favorite show on TV this morning – GPS (Global Public Square) with Fareed Zakaria. It is a hugely compelling show because Zakaria covers world issues that will affect all of us in ways that are accessible and with frameworks for processing disparate information. He brings knowledgable experts from varying points of view but never books anybody that engages in yelling matches.

The show has become my best curator of which books to read (including my favorite of last year, The Accidental Superpower) and my go to for understanding geopolitics of: Russia, Iran, Pakistan, China, India and of course the US. But they also take on issues in science, technology and management. Essentially it’s a replacement for reading The Economist every week (which I would do if I could find more time!).  Example from this morning was a quick discussion on the “Brexit” and wether the UK will exit Europe.

This morning’s show took on the topic of “teams” and highlighted research that Julia Rozovsky and Google has conducted called Project Aristotle and profiled in Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter, Faster, Better.

Read More

Like many immigrant families and many Jewish families I grew up around a kitchen table, often outside my house and experiencing food, culture, life and other people through meals. I remember fondly my dad (from Colombia) wanting to eat out of the house and experience the best multi-cultural foods one could actually find in middle-class, suburban Sacramento in the 70s & 80s. It wasn’t much but it’s a memory of father and son, a deeply engrained and nostalgic part of childhood.

My mom an even bigger driving culinary and cultural force. She opened a bakery and a California-French restaurant so when I say I grew up around food I mean it literally. And she pushed me to do my first trips to Paris and Tel Aviv that helped inspire what became more than a decade of living abroad across many countries and experiencing the world as it exists from humble street car food to haute cuisine.

Our first night in a Paris restaurant in 1993 I forced my mom to sit in the non-smoking section, which at that time meant sitting upstairs and eating on our own while the lively entertainment was downstairs.

Read More

My partner Greg Bettinelli (worth following on Twitter) was recently named by The LA Business Journal as the “Top deal maker in Los Angeles in Venture Capital.” Numero uno. I was nowhere to be found. And that’s a true reflection of just how successful and prolific Greg has been in LA.

In a world that is hyper competitive – even amongst VCs – I can honestly say that not only is the media recognition accurate but it is amongst the proudest days I’ve had in developing Upfront Ventures and our future. Earnestly. No false praise (which anybody I work with can tell you I don’t do). In the end, if you’re not developing a deep bench of talented professionals who keep you on your toes, you’re bound to be disrupted. And Greg has had the most influence on Upfront Ventures’ strategy since he joined.

I joined Upfront Ventures in 2007 and took over as co-Managing Partner in 2011 along with the founder, Yves Sisteron. I asked for the responsibility of setting out the firm’s future strategy and our daily operating tasks.

Read More

$30 million. That’s how much Invoca raised and we’re announcing it today. It is an heroic accomplishment in a brutal fund-raising market in which only market leaders can bring in that sort of money. But the story started more than 6 months ago. And the narrative may tell you something about your own journey one day.

We started planning our fund raising as much as 14 months ago. Invoca had grown steadily and consistently since 2009 and by 2015 SaaS companies with scale had become hot – trading at a median of 7.3x forward sales with some as high as 12x sales. Many had started IPO’ing and we started to think about our future.

Investors sat with the founder & CEO, Jason Spievak, and asked him what he wanted to do about the future.

Read More

Many startup businesses – tech or otherwise – fail. In our industry we applaud the efforts for entrepreneurs to have tried and we know that today’s failure can bring the experience for tomorrow’s success. We also know that even though many of us who are experienced in startup successes & failures look at businesses and say, “That will never work” (as many people said about Uber) or “You can’t make any money in that business” (as many said about WhatsApp or Dropbox) and of course some entrepreneurs pull off extraordinary things we never thought possible.

Trying outrageous new things or even trying mundane things but in new ways but with extreme quality & innovation is what fuels the tech startup industry.

Yet I can’t help thinking there are many predictable failures that come from a lack of basic planning. It turns out that to build a successful company you ultimately need this strange thing called “revenue” that people don’t just hand you: You need to earn it. And there’s this other thing called “gross margin,” which shows the quality of your revenue.

Read More