Advice for Investing in Startups

Una version de este post aparece en español con el titulo Lo Que Debes Saber Antes de Invertir en Startups. También fue una charla (video).

As startups and tech investing has gone mainstream with things like AngelList, Shark Tank, The Social Network, the proliferation of accelerators and incubators, and the celebritization of founders and VCs, more money has flowed into the industry.

Most non professional investors interested in startups are starting to dabble in early stage companies as angel investors. Friends often send me deals they’re think about investing in, asking for advice.

Here’s a concrete example of a typical question from a successful entrepreneur friend looking to invest:

I am starting to look at some investments in startups that have proven initial product-market fit and revenue traction with positive gross margins. I have found some great opportunities [and] I am only targeting businesses that meet my personal criteria. My biggest concern is how I should evaluate the businesses from a valuation perspective. Is there any guide suggested on this?

I personally am finding companies that claim to have a higher valuation than my own company which has greater revenues and faster growth rates, etc. So, that puts off a bit of an alarm in my head but I realize it’s normal in the VC world. I don’t really know how to value a VC backed start up.

I decided to share my answer: Continue reading…

Madison Based PerBlue’s Game Acquired for $35m

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The Madison startup scene got big news late week. Madison based game studio PerBlue’s game DragonSoul was acquired by GREE International Entertainment for $35m. Huge congrats to cofounders Justin Beck and Andrew Hanson, along with Forrest Woolworth and team.

In addition to being top notch entrepreneurs, Justin and Forrest have been huge supporters of Madison startups, Forward Fest and were founding members of Capital Entrepreneurs. Forrest continues to lead CE, along with being an integral part of PerBlue. It’s been amazing to see PerBlue grow from a few guys in Justin’s apartment to the amazing company they’ve built today. Thanks for all of your hard work, you guys deserve it!

Continue reading…

How To Come Up With Startup Ideas

Note: A version of this post originally appeared in Spanish with the title Cómo encontrar ideas para emprender in El Mercurio, one of Chile’s leading newspapers. I use my monthly column to give mainstream readers exposure to startup ideas. It’s a shortened version of Paul Graham’s original post How to Get Startup Ideas.

Lots of people dream of starting their own business. They want something of their own, to be their own boss and to try to build their business into something big and successful. As an investor, I meet with hundreds of hungry potential entrepreneurs looking for capital to start businesses. Their ideas run the gamut from small businesses to scalable tech startups. Their funding plans cross the specturm from VC, friends and family to bank loans.

The vast majority of the best Latin American companies that I see come from people looking for solutions to problems they’ve seen close up in their daily lives. Paul Graham, the cofounder of Y Combinator, the world’s most successful accelerator, put it extremely directly: Continue reading…

Pushing the Lead Domino

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Pushing the lead domino is another heuristic I’ve been using lately. In the words of Tim Ferriss, “which of these [tasks], if done, make the the rest easier or irrelevant?”

Most people know about the 80/20 principal, in that 20% leads to 80% of gains, but the lead domino is even more powerful. It’s the 80/20 principal on steroids, making it easier for me to focus on what’s important. There’s always one thing that I can be working on that will make everything I’m doing much easier. Continue reading…