Blog

The Artist and the Producer

If you’re a technology inventor, you know the struggling stage. To innovate is to be a misfit, a non-conformist and a seeker of the new. Until you’ve broken through, you are on your own, with too few resources, and surrounded by a world that doesn’t want you. Drive, determination and belief in oneself are required of every artist.

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Off the line

Breaking Trade-offs for Fun and Profit!

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50 Ways, Part 2: The Part Where We Offer You Advice

In my previous blog post – which I gave a clever title and then promptly ran out of cleverness for titles – I wrote about several ways that a startup, with a promising technology and a great relationship with an established strategic partner, can fail to have a successful commercial outcome. Here’s a summary:

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Will The Outsiders Please Stand Up

We’re lucky to have Will Thorndike as an LP and advisor. Alongside founding and running Housatonic Partners he wrote an influential book that Warren Buffet put on top of his recommendations a few years ago. “The Outsiders” analyzes the highest performing CEOs and identifies that extraordinary outcomes stem from superior capital allocation. We transposed the framework onto the hard science startups we invest in. What came out is a powerful summary of insights.

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50 Ways to Miss the Market: Part 1

You’re a founder of a startup developing what you’re certain is going to be an impactful new technology. Off to a great start.

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Selling for Startups: Be Your Own Rainmaker

Working closely with early-stage “hard-tech” startups, I routinely hear a myth: that being successful in sales is some kind of black magic best left to back-slapping, charismatic schmoozers that “know how to close”.

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The Party Train To Nowhere - First Stop: An Inflated TAM

If you have a new invention, it’s really fun to calculate your TAM, your Total Addressable Market. It shows the commercial opportunity and impact your invention might have. And it’s the outlook with which you excite investors, new hires and your mom. Founders can be forgiven for getting carried away. A good many pitches we see have HUUUUGE TAMS, with BIGGLY opportunities. It’s all fun and games until it leads you to a misguided strategy and you are killing your exit options. Let’s dive in and see where ambition meets fantasy and how an inflated plan can kill you.

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I Don’t Give a TAM

It’s not about the size of the lake, but how many fish you’ll catch

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Don’t get stuck in your own mouse trap

Hard tech innovation is famously slow to get to market. A 2004 MIT study found that the average time from lab to product is 15 years for a material science innovation. For founders and investors that’s a daunting if not impossible timeline. Why is it so long and how can you speed things up (dramatically)?

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I Know What You Did Last Summer

Three key lessons from a summer working at Rhapsody

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Diversification Doesn’t Work (in VC)

Venture returns come from a concentrated portfolio of companies where you, the investor, can actively add value.

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Demo days blues

Simple microeconomics explains why investors should avoid events like this. There might be excellent companies presenting, but there are very unlikely to be excellent investments on offer. There are simply too many investors chasing too few companies. Excess demand + limited supply = high prices; i.e. lots of early stage companies raising too much money at unreasonably high valuations. Investors – especially funds with a duty to provide adequate returns to LPs – will not find attractive opportunities in such an environment.

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Death by Analogy

Beware analogies.  They can tempt you down dangerous paths.

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Big companies are from Mars, Startups are from Venus

While recently helping a startup secure development funding from a large company, I started reflecting on why the two have so much difficulty working together.  Large companies complain that startups are hard to work with, have unrealistic expectations, are too ambitious and are frustratingly impatient. Conversely, startups lament that big companies are slow, uninspired and don’t value the breakthrough potential of their technologies. This leads to conflict.

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Overshoot the Moon

A few years ago, a headline caught me by surprise: Amyris, a Bay Area startup that used bioengineered “magic yeast” to turn sugar into diesel fuel, had just raised $133M in a Series D financing. At first my head rang with the sounds of imaginary corks popping in San Francisco – a successful startup was raking in the cash!

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Valuation Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number

It’s common for early stage entrepreneurs to obsess about their valuation. Valuation times your stake equals your wealth – why wouldn’t you obsess about that? It is also the one number that colleagues, peers and even your grandmother can use to judge how successful you are.

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How the Minimal Viable Product gets teams into trouble

The Lean Startup methodology postulates: Build the minimal viable product (the MVP) necessary to collect critical data to confirm your market hypothesis. It pushes teams to avoid falling in love with an extensive feature set and instead to build the simplest version of the product that can establish if the market needs it at all

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Get in touch

If you are raising funds or simply exploring the commercial potential of your innovation, we are interested in speaking with you. Send us a note to start a conversation!