Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Is the (SanFran) bubble over?

A friend of mine who runs a Sydney-based cash-flow positive early-stage business asked me: "Curious to hear your thoughts on this article:"

Here is my response:

- In terms of trends do you think this article highlights a trend and that seed investment will be less readily available?
[DJ] I've certainly had VC contacts tell me that there will be a huge shakeout in angel funded companies that won't get SeriesA. The risk with angel is (and always has been) that there may not be "follow-on" money from the angels. Whereas if you get into bed with a VC they always have "dry powder" for follow-ons (in good and hard times).

- What will this mean in Sydney?
On the funding side: I don't think it will affect Australia so much because there is little angel funding here - given that interest rates have only recently started to fall will high-networths move money into more speculative sectors (like high-tech)

On the engineer side: Articles like this are a good sales tool for companies like us who want to hire engineers and seek "some" loyalty from staff (for a period of time). We've been thru a period where every wally who can write a crud app over the weekend thinks they have an exit to Facebook in their future.

- He seems to think entrepreneurial types should go get jobs. I wouldn't hire me. What are your thoughts on hiring entrepreneurs? 
[DJ] per the above. There is likely to be a period where a subset of the wallies will be happy to get a job. They weren't entrepreneurs anyway they were technologists with an idea and hubris. So I think they are a different beast to someone like you who has built a portfolio of experience by working with others.

When I have hired - I usually look for signs that someone is going to be marking time until they get their own idea sorted (and in fact they want to work on it during lunch and maybe while nobody is watching).
Not necessarily a bad thing if you can expect to get 12-24 months out of them and give them leadership opportunities.

Re: "go get jobs": I have some young friends in the bay area who have opted for staying with big companies because they think they will (a) be better entrepreneurs by spending some time with real seasoned entrepreneurs. (b) can have a greater impact on society by being a cog in a well-funded machine.
I quite respect this position and one of those friends is working for a genetics company that could literally change the world (e.g put a SaaS API over your DNA - that is huge). The author also touches on "doing something useful"  - I love journalistic idealism - that would be refreshing :)

I LOLed and share his disdain for StartupBus (sorry Elias) and StartupWeekends - they are fine as a party trick but ppl get hypnotized that some crud prototype is a biz. (Zaarly is one of the high profile successes that has continued to pivot its business model and does not reflect the weekend startup that attracted all the hype).

Startups are sometimes characterised as a "marathon" not a "sprint". The reality its more like 20 heptathlons laid end-to-end. You need to have endurance, skills, endurance, people skills, endurance, conflict resolution skills, endurance....and the self-awareness to get out of the way when the business outgrows your skillset.
Its also interesting to note other dynamics at play outlined by Mary Meeker.

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