Entrepreneurial

The rise of “micro VCs”

– Mark Suster is a former serial entrepreneur and a partner at Los Angeles-based venture capital firm GRP Partners. This article originally appeared on Suster’s blog “Both Sides of the Table”. The views expressed are his own. –

This is the second in a three-part series on the changes to the software industry over the past decade that has led to changes in the venture capital industry itself. Read Part 1 here.

If you don’t want to read that post, the summary is:

    Open source computing drove computing costs down 90 percent, which spurred innovation in technology Open cloud led by Amazon with their AWS services drove total operating costs down by 90 percent. This led to an explosion in startups. Amazon in turn led to the formation of an earlier stage of venture capital now led by what I call “micro VCs” who typically invest $250,000 to 500,000 in companies rather than the $5 to $7 million that VCs used to invest.

These trends have put pressure on traditional VCs. Some have done earlier-stage deals and done well. Others have chased earlier-stage but lack the skills or relationships to do this effectively. Some have moved into later stage investments in an effort to “put logos on their websites.”

People are moving into everybody else’s space.

Everybody seems to want what everybody else has. You know the old saying from Harry Met Sally, “I’ll have what she’s having!” This will continue while we’re in a tech bull market and I predict will wane when we’re not.

The Blurring of Investment Lines

With new micro VC entrants into to early-stage investing plus increased competition from angels, incubators and the like – traditional VCs have taken notice. So VCs spent a couple of years experimenting with earlier-stage investing, which is OK. The best of them: Spark Capital, USV, Foundry Group also understood that how they worked with these management teams was changing and I believe firms like this will continue to excel at early-stage investing. There are also others.

Top 7 moonlighting businesses

– Melinda F. Emerson, known as the SmallBizLady, is an entrepreneur, professional speaker, small business coach and the author of “Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months“. This article originally appeared on SecondAct.com. The views expressed are her own. –

In today’s economy, even if you have a job, your money doesn’t go as far as it used to. You’re probably thinking a lot about how you can make some money on the side.

I am a firm believer that the only way to build wealth in America is to build a business, but getting started can be challenging for people who need a weekly paycheck. That’s why it’s best to stick your toes in the entrepreneurial waters with a moonlighting business. It usually takes 18 to 36 months for a new business venture to break even.

Founder-market fit a key for startups

– Chris Dixon is the co-founder of Hunch and of seed fund Founder Collective. This blog originally appeared here. The views expressed are his own. –

An extremely useful concept that has grown popular among startup founders is what eminent entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreessen calls “product/market fit,” which he defines as “being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.” Andreessen argues persuasively that product/market fit is “the only thing that matters for a new startup” and that “the life of any startup can be divided into two parts: before product/market fit and after product/market fit.”

But it takes time to reach product/market fit. Founders have to choose a market long before they have any idea whether they will reach product/market fit. In my opinion, the best predictor of whether a startup will achieve product/market fit is whether there is what David Lee calls “founder/market fit”. Founder/market fit means the founders have a deep understanding of the market they are entering, and are people who “personify their product, business and ultimately their company.”

Note to entrepreneurs: Your idea is not special

– Brad Feld is a managing director at the Boulder, Colorado-based venture capital firm Foundry Group. He also co-founded TechStars and writes the popular blog, Feld Thoughts. The views expressed are his own. –

Every day I get numerous emails from software and Internet entrepreneurs describing their newest ideas.

Often these entrepreneurs think their idea is brand new – that no one has ever thought of it before. Other times they ask me to sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect their idea. Occasionally the emails mysteriously allude to the idea without really saying what it is.

5 reasons to join a startup after graduating

– Eric Stromberg joined Hunch in 2010 and works primarily on business development. Prior to Hunch, Eric worked as a summer analyst in Goldman Sachs’ Sales and Trading Division. Eric received a BA, magna cum laude, in history from Duke University. This article originally appeared on his blog. The views expressed are his own. –

After I wrote my last post, a surprising number of people emailed me asking why I decided to join a startup after graduating from Duke. Many of those I heard from face similar decisions today: either they are college seniors choosing between a big company and a startup, or they are recent graduates who work at a big company and are thinking about making the switch.

What’s interesting is that most are already leaning towards the startup career path: it seems they just want someone to assure them it’s a rational move. Their friends and family are skeptical: “How can you turn down a job at Morgan Stanley for a 10-person startup?” Hopefully this post will give those who want to join startups some good points to bring back to the skeptics as to why it’s a good idea to join a startup early in your career.

Hearty 2011 seen for restaurateurs

This year the restaurant industry is poised to put up its best numbers in four years, buoyed by an increase of roughly 2 million jobs since the depths of the recession and improved household income.

Sales are seen rising 3.6 percent to $604 billion in 2011, according to forecasts from the National Restaurant Association, the industry’s trade group.

“When employment moves up it creates additional demand for convenience such as pizza,” said Hudson Riehle, the association’s senior vice president of research and information services. “Barring any unforeseen shocks, the future for the industry will continue to improve.”

Chicago incubator hopes to SPARK startups

Think you can form a technology company from scratch in just a week? That’s the idea behind SPARK, a new incubator program launched by a group of Chicago-area entrepreneurs.

The program is aimed at seeding viable ideas for Web-based and mobile applications during an upcoming startup competition that runs from July 22 to 27 in the Windy City.

“SPARK is about doing, not talking,” said 29-year-old Maliha Mustafa, a former investment banker turned entrepreneur and SPARK co-founder. “What we’d like to do is actually execute.”

Al Jazeera boss tops innovators list

When former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak cut off the country’s Internet in an attempt to silence the media, Al Jazeera got creative and began broadcasting via cellphones and reporting through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

This kind of lateral thinking thrust the “Arab CNN” into the global spotlight and landed its leader – Wadah Khanfar – at the top of Fast Company’s 2011 list of “The 100 Most Creative People in Business”.

“We think a lot about who’s going to be No. 1,” said Fast Company executive editor Rick Tetzeli, noting Khanfar’s selection, ahead of innovative leaders at Apple (Scott Forstall, No. 2) and Google (Sebastian Thrun, No. 5), is a testament to the Al Jazeera editorial director’s unorthodox approach to news.

Best practices for raising a VC round

An employee counts money at a foreign currency exchange in Tokyo. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Chris Dixon is co-founder of Hunch and founder of Founder Collective, and an investor in many early-stage companies like Skype and Foursquare. Previously he co-founded Siteadvisor, which was acquired by McAfee. This blog originally appeared on cdixon.org. The views expressed are his own. –

Having raised a number of VC rounds personally and observed many more as an investor or friend, I’ve come to think there are a set of dominant best practices that entrepreneurs should follow.

Small businesses offer bin Laden specials

REUTERS/HO/RoadKillTshirts.com

As Americans took to the streets to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, C. J. Grouse was rushing to print thousands of new t-shirts to take advantage of the occasion.

“This is probably the biggest bounce we’ve seen from an individual news story in the last five years of doing this,” said Grouse, 43, who launched RoadKill T-Shirts with his brother in 2005. “We had our designs up yesterday by noon and we sold over two thousand of the different designs in 24 hours.”

Grouse said his most popular seller has been a shirt with an Uncle Sam icon and the message: “We Got You Osama bin Laden May 1, 2011″. Other shirts include a bin Laden likeness behind red crosshairs and the slogan “Burn In Hell” and one inspired by Facebook, with the words: “Osama bin Laden Is Dead. 311,275,382 People Like This”.

  •