2017 Investments

In 2017, I want to make a few small investments in early stage startups. I figured the best way to make this happen would be to share what types of opportunities I’m looking for.

I don’t have the ability to write large checks. Instead, I’m going to write smaller checks and focus on companies where I can add substantial value through experience. This is in many ways similar to Sam, who also wrote an excellent post on this.

Consumer in Boston

Boston has very strong communities for b2b organizations and biotech, but there isn’t much consumer going on. In particular, there’s a big gulf in the between seed and IPO. I feel this acutely after having spent time in NYC.

  • We have early stage consumer startups, but they tend to migrate to NYC or San Francisco.
  • We also have some companies that are way past the point where “startup” would be a fair descriptor (think: Zipcar, Kayak, TripAdvisor, GE).

This leaves us with a lack of founders, employees, investors, and advisors who have experience in the growth stage of consumer companies. I’d like to help us fill that gap. Plus, for the foreseeable future I’m going to be in Boston — it’ll be nice to be able to meet in person!

If you’re a seed stage consumer company and want to stay and grow in Boston, definitely reach out. If you think we’d work well together and you’re either in Boston or doing consumer work elsewhere, I’d still like to hear from you.

Better offline humans

My favorite part of technology is when it enables people to do more in the real world. The opposite of this is building tools that convince people to spend more time on computers.

The best example of this for me is Kickstarter, which uses technology to help creators and artists bring their ideas into the world. It also applies to other categories —Lola for traveling, Blue Apron for getting people to cook more, Skillshare for helping people develop new skills and paths.

If you only care about making money, I am not the right investor for you.

Inclusion

I want to work with inclusive teams. Inclusion starts from the beginning and permeates every element of a company. Some examples include:

  1. Making sure a product works across demographics.
  2. Making sure any marketing/targeting is based on real user behavior rather than tropes.
  3. Inclusive recruiting and hiring practices.

It is okay if you aren’t knowledgable in this area yet. I am happy to help you learn. If you don’t care about this, I am not the right investor for you.

Working with me

I’m excited to help you create the best company that you can.

I believe the best advisors don’t just give “how I would do it ” advice, because often that advice relies on their individual style. Instead, good advisors help create frameworks so you can make the right decision for you and your company and will be able to do it again in the future. It’s more like teaching.

A few of the areas I can help in:

  1. Product Strategy. Your long term goal as an entrepreneur and your relentless focus on the small “next step” is a delicate balance. I’ll happily dig into your roadmap with you if you want, and I’ll push you to think about both.
  2. Brainstorming. If you’re faced with a problem, I can help you think through how other companies have solved it — both from my personal experience and friends. We can also generate frameworks for assessing those methods.
  3. Storytelling. Building the product is one thing, but you also need to tell it’s story. This comes up for product marketing and for making board decks. I’m happy to be a friendly “first listener” for a story as you craft it.
  4. Hiring. This can be about hiring your first PM, or thinking about the next right hire for the team. I’m a strong believer that early on you should hire people who can fill multiple gaps, regardless of their title.
  5. Introductions. Sometimes I’m not the person who will be best to help you think through the problem. In that case, if I know the person who is, I will help you connect with them.

Caveats & Getting In Touch

  1. Travel. Because of my full-time work at Lola, unfortunately I won’t look at anything in the travel space.
  2. Email. You can email me. I’m my first.last@gmail.com. Please let me know a little bit more about you and what you’re working on.
  3. Response. I put all the emails in a folder to review during weekends. If I think there’s a chance for us to work together, you’ll hear back from me. It might take a bit, depending on the volume of emails and my travel schedule.
  4. Coffee Meetings. My goal is to develop a few serious relationships that could lead to an investment and advisory role. This means if I don’t see a chance of this leading to investment, I will likely decline a coffee meeting. That doesn’t mean I don’t like you or your idea — it’s a time constraint issue.