The 2018 Seed Stage Reset

This post is about the Bay Area startup and venture ecosystem. I believe the local ecosystem just completed an entire “reset” with respect to the earliest stages of company formation. (I need to state upfront that this isn’t about the seed landscape nationwide — I’ll address that in […]

Quickly Unpacking The Uber “Softbank IPO” Exit

Whenever there’s a big startup exit, I try to quickly unpack it here on the blog. There’s been so much news about Uber for the past year and more that, frankly, I have tuned most of it out. It’s almost laughable now three years ago, I actually thought […]

Looking Ahead, Predictions For 2018

Turning the page on 2017, here’s what I’m looking ahead to in 2018: I want to keep this post brief as possible. Below is a set of predictions for 2018 in tech startups and VC. This is also a window into the principles and beliefs I hold and […]

An Imperfect Glance At Tech’s Notable Exits In 2017

This will be a brief post looking back at some of the notable tech exits of 2017. Before we begin, there are many disclaimers that must be made… [note: if we missed a “notable” exit, please let me know & I’ll update the sheet…] First, this is not […]

Brief FAQ From Haystack IV Fundraising Experience

Earlier this year, I wrote a post detailing how I was able to transform Haystack into an institutional fund. As there continue to be more and more smaller and newer funds created per year, that post triggered a bunch of emails and follow-up questions, so I collected them […]

Looking Back On Tech Startups And VC In 2017

Here’s my “Year In Review For Tech VC & Startups, 2017 edition.” For the past few weeks, I’ve jotted down notes on my iPad w/ Pencil, and sort of dreaded the act of writing this given the overall stench of 2017. Yes, there were some bright spots. Focusing […]

Podcast Holiday Listening 2017

This fall, I wanted to go on a “Podcast Tour” to talk about the new Haystack Fund and also re-engage with one of my favorite mediums, audio. Here’s a quick holiday round-up of all the shows from this fall, with two more set to be released (Origins, by […]

The Breakout Tech Company Of 2017

For a while, on this blog, I attempted to pick one startup for that year which truly “broke out” of its shell. Dialing back the clock, one could say 2011 was Uber and Airbnb; in 2012, I wrote about Stripe; in 2013, I wrote about Snap; in 2014, […]

The Story Behind My Investment In Perlara

Almost two years ago, I met a founding team during Y Combinator batch. It was in a field I haven’t invested in before, but I have spent time in during a previous life and career. We met for coffee on the Embarcadero, and while my “life sciences lexicon” […]

The Story Behind My Investment In Optimus Ride

About a year ago, thanks to an investor friend who, in this particular case, shall remain nameless (but you know who you are, and thank you!) was kind enough to tip me off about a great team he met on the east coast but one that he couldn’t […]

Podcast: The Backstory Of Raising Haystack IV (The Full Ratchet)

As my Podcast 2017 Tour continues, Nick Moran from Chicago’s The Full Ratchet was kind enough to have me on his show again a second time. Two years ago, I was a guest on The Full Ratchet discussing the intricacies of how seed-stage companies graduate to institutional Series […]

“Leveling Up”

I have been emailing Haystack founders a bit more often with some stream-of-conscious thoughts, and many of them have encouraged me to publish them publicly. Below, I was thinking about how relatively easy it is (in the Bay Area) to raise a seed round versus raising from larger […]

Notes From The 2017 Cendana MicroVC Summit

Yesterday, I attended my fourth Cendana Micro VC Summit in San Francisco. As I’ve done in years past, I wanted to briefly summarize how I perceived the mood of both LPs (the money source) and GPs (those who allocate to founders) in today’s current environment. [For a look […]

How To Transform A VC Fund Capital Base From Individuals To Institutional LPs

Lots of people have raised small VC funds. There are more startups, and there’s more LP capital from various sources to meet that demand. After the rise of institutional seed funds in the late 2000’s, we’ve obviously witnessed a pure explosion of new (mostly seed) fund formation, with […]

Brief Thoughts On VC Fund Management

If you’re a new or relatively-new VC, you simply must download or stream this new 20 Minute VC interview of Michael Dearing of Harrison Metal (download here). Harry Stebbings does a great job with this one. There are two key reasons to spend the time to listen to […]

Who Startups Truly Compete With — Each Other

When a founding team is raising institutional money — either an institutional seed or Series A/B round — those founding teams may have a slide in their pitch deck which shows the competition in their market or sector. This is often referred to as “the competition slide.” Yet, […]

Quickly Unpacking Nestle’s Majority Investment In Blue Bottle Coffee

Earlier this week, it was reported that Bay Area coffee roaster and coffee icon Blue Bottle received a massive investment from Nestle Corporation, giving it a majority stake in the company and, by some accounts, valuing it at or even above $700M (reports differ here but let’s assume […]

The Market Ignores Inputs

About a decade ago, when I was finishing grad school and picking up various consulting engagements to keep afloat, I was reminded recently of one of those engagements. In the pursuit of as many leads as I could find, I accepted a statistical modeling assignment that, in retrospect, […]

Seeing Through The Hangover “Fog” From 2014-2015

Earlier this week (on Monday the 11th), I wrote the following note to every CEO/founder I’ve invested in. I didn’t intend to write to write for it public consumption, but a bunch of them said it should be made public. So, I cleaned it up a bit and, […]

Three Founder Traits That Help Score Series As

I’ve written here quite often — perhaps too much — about what early-stage founders need to think about when graduating from seed stage to institutional Series A stage. I won’t go into that here, but another aspect of this journey has been highlighted in my mind that I […]

“Finishing The Work”

These days, it’s easy to start a company — and it’s hard to build one. And, we know 90% of new ventures don’t ultimately work out. We all focus on the growth and momentum, the outliers and the high-fliers, and for good reason — those outcomes end up […]

The Story Behind My Investment In Ironclad

Sometimes, picking a company to invest in is just easy. The hard part is getting in. About two years ago now, I met Jason Boehmig of Ironclad during YC’s Summer 2015 batch (before Demo Day). One of my founders who was in YC singled out Jason as outstanding. […]

The Story Behind My Investment In WorkRamp

About a year ago, a few ex-Box friends mentioned one of their colleagues “Ted” was starting a new company. That was enough for me to swing into action. I googled around and targeted “Ted Blosser,” found we had a few close friends in common, and a few email […]

The Story Behind My Investment In Pillow

As I began to raise my first fund back in early 2013, I reached out to my friend Satya to see if he’d like to make a small LP investment. We met up in The Mission and I walked him through what I was trying, and he said […]

The Story Behind My Investment In SkySafe

Back in Q1 of 2016, when the technology sector went through a sizable (but apparently now forgotten) correction fueled by sharp hits to public tech stocks, I was happily investing into the very early-stage ecosystem, and in particular, deeper technology opportunities. It was at that time when my […]

The “Summer Of Semil” Returns To StrictlyVC

It’s that time of year, when Connie Loizos of StrictlyVC takes off in search of east coast summers and long walks on the beach — leaving StrictlyVC’s readership without its veritable columnist and correspondent for a few weeks. While Connie’s work and voice cannot be substituted for, I […]

The Story Behind My Investment in Protocol Labs

Almost three years ago now (summer of 2014), a friend said I should spend some extra time looking at a new small company that had formed out of Stanford. I remembered seeing the company at Y Combinator’s Demo Day in August 2014. The presentation was memorable for the […]

The Story Behind My Investment In CARMERA

Years ago, when I was working at a startup, I made my first trip down to SXSW. It was a blast. That weekend, I happened to stay in a house along with a bunch of folks from Disqus. I knew Daniel, the founder, a bit from before, as […]

June 6, 2017: AMAx3

On June 6th, I may break an Internet record — or, at least, try to. Next Tuesday, I will participate in three (3) separate, live “AMAs,” also known as “Ask Me Anything.” I have done of few of these already, and as someone who loves good questions and […]

Guest Series On StrictlyVC: Q&A With Limited Partners In VC

** UPDATE ** I’ve added links to each specific interview posted on StrictlyVC with each of the LPs: -Sarah Anderson @ Cintrifuse – click here -Susan Chen @ UTIMCO – click here -Atul Rustgi @ Accolade – click here -Amit Tiwari @ INVESCO – click here -Hunter Somerville […]

The Story Behind My Investment In Remix

A little over two years ago, the founder of Chariot, a company I was involved very early with, told me about another founder in his YC batch that he liked. He wasn’t sure if it was a good business (at the time), but he really vouched for the […]

Recruiting A Board Member

Working with many seed-stage companies, a large component of my decision-making and work revolves around being helpful as the company approaches a “Series A investment.” This term can mean different things to different people, so I’ll simply state how I define it — To me, Series A is […]

Visualizing Haystack

Over here, I’m usually one to write about things, to use words, arguments, structure to share a point of view. Yet, after four years as a small investor (2013-2017), I wanted to examine some data and work with a designer to visualize it. Note, it’s not perfect data, […]

The Story Behind My Investment In Kubos

After investing in Saildrone a year ago, I tweeted something late at night about meeting founders with “oceanic” ambitions. A friend on Twitter (Jonathan Van) from Texas wrote back, emailed me, and said he’d put a bit of money in this company in Texas that had “oceanic” ambitions, […]

The Story Behind My Investment In Citizen

When one of your best friends and seed-stage co-investors texts you about a company “you’ve just got to meet,” that certainly gets my attention. Thanks to that good friend in NYC, I was able to meet Andrew, the CEO of a company called sp0n. Yes, that’s right — […]

Quickly Unpacking Intel’s Acquisition of Mobileye

Another day, another mega-acquisition of a technology company — this time, it was the iconic Silicon Valley company, Intel, which shelled out $15B for Israel’s Mobileye (also a public company) in the high stakes battle to win the war in the shift to autonomous vehicles. In the Valley, […]

The Story Behind My Investment In Cobalt Robotics

Earlier this week, Cobalt Robotics came out of stealth mode. The idea behind Cobalt is to create security robots which patrol places of work, like financial institutions, hospitals, data centers, operational plants, and other secure infrastructure. What is today typically done by a mix of humans (security guards) and […]

In Conversation With Brad Feld (StrictlyVC Insider Series 2017)

Earlier this month, Connie Loizos of StrictlyVC and TechCrunch gave me the opportunity to sit down with Brad Feld from Foundry Group at her latest “Insider Series” event. I love these events because everyone attending is genuinely interested in investing in startups and everyone has a genuine desire […]

Investing Notes From The Upfront Summit (2017)

How many years now — three? I had to check my back catalog, and lo and behold, I just wrapped up my third Upfront Summit. Every year, it’s an absolute blast, and each year becomes more memorable than the last. After two full days on the ground in […]

Unpacking Cisco’s Last-Minute Acquisition Of AppDynamics

It’s like a trick play in sports, like a flea flicker, or fake field goal kick, or a surprise bunt and suicide squeeze — the list goes on and on, but for AppDynamics, the dramatic sports analogies are plentiful. Set to IPO this week and begin trading at […]

Unpacking Atlassian’s Acquisition Of Trello

Wrapping up my first CES/Vegas retreat, I boarded the plane to check Twitter to see — lo and behold — that Trello had been acquired by Atlassian for $425M in a great, quick early-stage venture outcome. There’s quite a bit to unpack here, so I’ll just leave a […]

Looking Ahead To 2017

It’s that time of year, a time to look ahead to the next year and wonder what it may bring. Earlier this week, I reflected on what I’ll remember from 2016. If this past year taught us anything, it’s that crafting precise predictions is a difficult, if not impossible, […]

Trying To Stay Grounded As A Writer And Investor

If you’ve read this blog over the years, you may have noticed a slight shift in topics discussed, mainly from technology products, services, and markets to eventually include my half-baked views on the financing environment for startups. I just scrolled through my archive in reverse-chronological order and noticed […]

Entrepreneurial Resilience And Creative Metamorphosis

Back in early 2015, mobile live-streaming hit the scene, with products Meerkat and Periscope taking different paths — Meerkat hit the market, raised a big seed followed by a Series A led by Greylock, while Periscope was scooped up by Twitter to be integrated into its platform as […]

Transcript: Chamath Palihapitiya @ Post Seed 2016

(Below is the full transcript from my fireside chat with Chamath on Dec 1, 2016 in San Francisco. Below is the full transcript, including audience questions. We covered topics related to the election, how the Bay Area may be treated by a new administration, changes in healthcare, the […]

Myriad Money Motivations

If you still follow me on Twitter (sorry if you still do), you may have noticed that I’ve been working out some thoughts related to the impact of how much money is not only in the Bay Area today, but how much more may come in. Yes, I […]

Quick Notes From Laguna Beach (WSJ Live 2016)

As if working in venture capital wasn’t already a great job, my colleagues from my venture partner role at GGV Capital surprised me with an extra ticket to this week’s WSJ Live event down in Laguna Beach. It was also great to see some of my WSJ reporter-friends […]

Haystack is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2018 Semil Shah.

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”— Epicurus