Posts Tagged: Business

4 key points to address in your startup pitch

I met with 10 early-stage startups in Seattle yesterday and it was a good reminder for me what some of the most important messages are that you want to bring across to an investor when you have a limited amount of time to present your company. Here are the 4 key points that I very much care about:

  • Company vision / elevator pitch: I too often get founders that cannot describe in 2-3 sentences what the vision of their startup is and what their company is all about. Make it simple and start the conversation with it. Otherwise, the investor will feel kind of lost as they don’t even know what you really want to build.
  • Team: everybody has a team slide but in an early-stage environment I really want to know who can actually build stuff (and see examples of what they have built) and who are the “suits” (and what concrete value they are bringing to the team). Your team is only 3-4 people strong so you better have the right guys on board to start this company and you need to bring this across to the potential investor.
  • Competitive advantage: think long and hard about how you differentiate from other sites out there. Too often founders overestimate how differentiated their product is when it is actually just a nice evolution of existing products that will have a hard time convincing users to switch.
  • Distribution: distribution often doesn’t get the necessary amount of attention and founders seem to assume that people will just flock to their site so really go through the different marketing channels and come up with a strategy that make the most sense for the product you built.

So keep your pitch short and simple and make sure to address those 4 points – it will sure help to make your pitch more concise!

P.S.: I had a great time in Seattle and am always impressed by the consumer internet scene down there – perhaps this will turn into more investments soon!

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Is the “Third Wave” here or is this just another step in the Internet’s evolution?

Michael Arrington has argued at the occasion of the launch of his new Techcrunch Disrupt conference that a “third wave” in the evolution of technology is here. With personal computing being the first wave and the Internet the second, he claims that the growing importance of social, mobile and new forms of commerce is revolutionary enough to be called a “third wave”.

I generally agree with his assessment of those major trends driving the future development of the Internet but I would like to add a few thoughts:

  • I think that it is rather an evolution than a revolution – social and mobile have been part of the development of the ecosystem since quite some time but have now both reached enough scale to be large underlying growth drivers
  • I would add “open data” as an underlying driver of the development we are currently seeing – as more and more data is made accessible to the public, new and interesting applications will be built on top of this data.
  • The biggest risk will be that social could end up being fully controlled by Facebook and mobile by Apple and I hope for the development of the overall ecosystem that we will see strong competitors and platforms to both emerging (which is more likely in mobile with Google’s Android than it is in social)

Even though the current development feels more like “Web 2.5″ instead of a”Third Wave”, these are extremely exciting times for Consumer Internet entrepreneurs and investors alike with social, mobile, new commerce and open data driving a lot of innovation in the upcoming years.

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Display advertising will get more complex before it will get simpler

There has been a lot of development in the display advertising markets in the past 18-24 months and there is no better place than New York City to dive into this vertical. Terence Kawaja did an excellent job at his IAB keynote address a few weeks ago to show how complex the display advertising technology landscape has become. So with 192 companies in 24 categories the marketplace is clearly overcrowded with billions of invested dollars at stake. While this growing complexity currently limits the amount of additional ad dollars flowing into display, it is probably a very efficient trial at large scale to find out what features, tools and types of marketplaces will be ultimately needed.

So when I envision the display advertising landscape in 2-3 years I see 3 distinct categories: exchanges for ad inventory, exchanges for data and tools for publishers (e.g. DSP’s) and advertisers (e.g. yield optimization) to connect into these exchanges more efficiently. Once some of the big ad players (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, etc.) will start consolidating this marketplace, we will most likely see a big inflow of new money into display advertising. At the same time, margins for intermediaries will see some downward pressure (assuming we will not have a quasi-monopoly like in PPC advertising) and winners in this scenario would be advertisers (getting more value for their money) and publishers (getting potentially higher CPM’s but definitely more volume). For investors it feels that it is going to be tough to make money in this space as the overall market size for intermediaries will remain flat (higher volume but lower margins) and the only viable strategy at this stage might be to invest in startups building very specific features that could get picked up in a consolidation play.

The biggest unknown in this scenario is however the same that has limited innovation in the past and it is the fact that “display advertising is sold and not bought”. People and human relationships have always played a huge role in this market and might limit the development of stock market-like models in display advertising.

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Google getting into the people search business in a bigger way?

People search must account for a significant portion of Google search traffic and it is interesting to see that they are now trying to grab a larger market but asking people to store essential information in a Google profile. If this takes off, this would not be great news to Facebook, LinkedIn and specialized people search engines.

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Great job opportunities in our portfolio

Start-ups are all about the people creating and growing them so all of our founders and CEO’s are continuously looking to add great talent to their teams. Going forward I am going to highlight some of the job opportunities here on the blog – so consider applying if you are interested in one of the jobs below (and please spread the word if you know of any candidates that might be a fit):

Technical Dev Lead for Weddingful:

My take: Great opportunity to get involved at a very early stage of a promising company and lead product development – must think and act like a founder!

Top notch engineers for Indochino:

My take: Indochino is one of the fastest-growing Internet companies in Vancouver and was recently named one of North America’s top startups. The company wants to revolutionize the online apparel industry so tons of interesting product development challenges around customization and personalization.

Both opportunities are based in Vancouver.

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