29 April / s-1 analysis
Slack has transformed the way we work. By replacing email with beautiful and simple internal chat, Slack has productized productivity. Founded as a gaming company called Tiny Speck in 2009, the company’s initial product, Glitch, didn’t catch on as expected. So the business pivoted to commercialize an internal tool - a Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge, Slack. Since those early days, the company has grown to employ 1500 employees according to their S-1.
25 April / books
Charlie Munger is famous for championing the idea of mental models. Mental models help us think about the world by simplifying very complex topics into more digestible and tractable ideas. The challenge with mental models is first learning about them and second figuring out which model applies when. We use mental models in our daily lives. The 80⁄20 rule is the Pareto Principle. Focus on the stuff that will yield 80% of the result with 20% of the work.
22 April / office hours
It’s time to start SaaS Office Hours again! Starting on May 14, I’ll be hosting a monthly event from the Redpoint San Francisco offices called SaaS Office Hours. During these two hours, we will discuss the tactical issues and questions facing seed and Series A SaaS companies in a small group. That’s why we call them Office Hours. We’ve done them in the past and they’ve been a great success.
14 April / trends / saas / sales
Since writing The AI Agency: A Novel GTM for Machine Learning Startups, I’ve been meeting many companies who operate this way. These startups use machine learning to disrupt an industry traditionally dominated by agencies: law, accounting, recruiting, translation, debt collection, marketing…the list is long. I will publish a landscape soon on the area. If you’re operating an AI Agency, I’d love to hear from you. In meeting many of these innovative businesses, I’ve observed they face four strategic questions.
In a world where there are no secrets, where innovations are quickly imitated or become obsolete, the theory of competitive advantage may have had its day. Realistically, ask yourself, If all your competitors gave their strategic plans to each other, would it really make a difference? In 1986, Amar Bhide wrote “Hustle as Strategy” for the Harvard Business Review. At the time, he was an assistant professor at HBS.
04 April / exits / financials / startups
Why does growth rate matter so much? Why does growth rate influence valuation so much? I was reading a book recently written by a hedge fund manager who discussed valuation frameworks. His explanation was one of the best I’ve come across. If your business is growing at 100% next year, then 90% the year after, and then about 80% the year after, the business will have grown 6.9x. That’s the way I’ve always looked at company.
In 2014, I published a post called Do Startup Require Less Capital to Succeed than 10 Years Ago? It’s been five years and time to see how things have changed. In the analysis, I created a metric, the return on invested capital (ROIC). ROIC is the number of revenue dollars that one venture dollar bought. In other words, at IPO, how much revenue per VC dollar did the company generate. In 2014 we saw increasing efficiencies over time, which was very exciting because it reaffirmed the efficiency of SaaS go-to-market.
26 March / saas / strategy
In early and developing markets, selling complete products is often a superior go to market strategy, rather than selling an innovation in a layer in the stack. This is true for five reasons. First, for early customers to generate value from a novel technology, that technology must solve a business problem completely. End-to-end products do that. Layers in the stack don’t. They optimize existing systems. In early markets, customers want to buy a car, not a better camshaft.
24 March / s 1 analysis
In the past few years, Zoom has become a verb: the act of video conferencing someone. Eight years ago, Eric Yuan, former VP Engineering at WebEx left to create a business with a better video conferencing product. He and his team authored a new codec, which is far more resilient than others. The innovation results in higher quality calls. Focused on capital efficiency from the earliest days of the business, Eric has built a monster software business, with few comparisons in both absolute scale and efficiency.
21 March
Imagine-75 years ago-our Commencement date was listed as January 1, 1943. Our “last supper” date was December 12, 1942. It was in the main dining room. President Hopkins and Arthur Hayes Sulzberger, president and publisher of the New York Times, were the keynote speakers. No pomp, no valedictorian, no honorary degrees, no cap and gown, no family. The dinner ended with hugs and tears eyes. We scattered in different directions the next morning.