Archive

Jerry Colonna Breaks Me Down On The Reboot Podcast

A few summers ago, I was driving from mid-Connecticut to JFK to pick up my brother-in-law. On that long drive down, I stumbled upon a podcast where Jason Calacanis and Jerry Colonna were chatting. I loved the discussion, listed to the entire podcast again, and wrote about it […]

Light Blog Housekeeping

Every summer, I try to revamp or clean-up this blog. For this summer, it was more about clean-up. There are still some loose ends to be polished up, but briefly, here’s what changed: 1/ The “Haystack” Name: For some reason, I named my site “Haywire,” and that name […]

Five Takeaways From Walmart’s Acquisition of Jet.com

Jet.com, once laughed at — or, should I say, often laughed at — will now have the final laugh. Walmart will announce tomorrow that it has acquired Jet.com, which has raised upwards of $565M of venture capital from some of the best funds in the world, for $3.3 […]

Five Quick Takeaways From Salesforce’s $750M Acquisition of Quip

These big deals are cutting into my sleep! Another day, another interesting deal in startup-land. This one wasn’t quite as big as the $35b Uber-Didi deal, but it’s still big. Quip was just acquired by Salesforce, reportedly for $750m. Quip raised two rounds of VC totally $45m (per […]

My Five Quick Takeaways From The Uber-Didi Deal

It is late (for me) on a Sunday night and my Monday is packed, so I’m going to forego some sleep and quickly jot down my thoughts and reactions to the news that Uber is leaving China, taking investment from its Chinese rival, Didi, and taking a 20% […]

Transparency Is Coming To Venture

Fascinating interview with @semil by @HarryStebbings on @twentyminutevc! https://t.co/RQFkztHABu — Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) July 26, 2016 Today is a big media day at Haystack Fund! Just kidding, but for some reason, previous discussions I’ve had with reporters and media all seemed to surface online today. As I was […]

Venture Capital as a Hyperlocal Game

A few weeks ago, Chris Mims of The Wall Street Journal wrote a great piece on the struggle between entrepreneurial energy spreading across the country while the dollars allocated by LPs in venture capital funds increases in concentration in the Bay Area. Specifically, Mims reports that while the […]

The Unconventional Wisdom in The Dollar Shave Club Exit

Like any big startup acquisition, there is a rush to unpack it, especially when the price tag is rumored to start with a “B.” There’s a lot of bragging rights and credibility wrapped up in that number, and the ecosystem will even fudge numbers a smidge to make […]

The Story Behind My Investment In Myra Labs

This is going to be a fun story to write about Myra Labs. About a year ago, my good friend Nakul told me I should meet this guy spinning out of Bloomreach — Viksit. I happen to know one of the founders of Bloomreach, who quickly pinged back […]

The Story Behind My Investment In ScopeAR

Back around the holidays in 2015, one of my LPs (who is also a friend) sent me a note about a YC company from the most recent batch, S15. I had been at YC and saw the company, but hadn’t been thinking about the “AR” space. I know […]

By Bits And Pieces, Giving Back And Paying Forward

Over the past few months, a number of people I know well but maybe haven’t seen in a long while have resurfaced in life. It is great, and I can’t explain the timing. Maybe it’s summer. Maybe I have more time and am not traveling. Whatever the reason, […]

The Most Important Sensor In The World: The Mobile Phone Camera

Long before Instagram was created, nearly every technology observer realized the massive potential of mobile phone cameras. Kevin Systrom, the famous CEO of Instagram, once remarked on stage, paraphrased: “When the iPhone 4 launched, most people saw a phone with a great camera — we saw a great […]

Notes From The Field: Summarizing Dozens Of Meetings With M&A Teams

Last December, I got into a longer conversation at a social event with someone who had lots of corporate M&A experience in tech. She said something to me that lodged into my brain: “Generally speaking, we have no interest in VC prices.” As that quote snaked its way around […]

“Having The Hard Conversation”

Earlier this summer, I was catching up a friend who’s at an early-stage fund. He said something which has stuck with me, paraphrased: “We try to tell ourselves all the time — we need to be the folks willing to have the hard conversation — with everyone.” My […]

The Side-Hustle Into Venture

Last weekend, a number of people shared the first-person account of millennial “side-hustling” that was published in Quartz. You can read the article here. It’s not that great of a piece, nothing new or earth-shattering is revealed, but I’d wager it was shared so widely because people have […]

The Story Behind My Investment In Tempo Automation

About a year ago, my friend in NYC Joel pinged me about a company he had invested in. It was a short description, but I took the intro and met Jeff, the CEO of Tempo Automation, for coffee. We had a great discussion, and he had the right […]

Reflections On The Startup Funding Climate As We Slip Into Summertime

Disclaimers: This isn’t a doom and gloom speech. There’s tons of opportunity out there. And, this is mainly focused on consumer markets. Also, this post is a little long in the tooth. Please forgive me. I haven’t had time to write with all the little kids running around […]

Unpacking Microsoft’s Acquisition Of LinkedIn

The first notification which caught my bleary eyes Monday morning — Microsoft to acquire LinkedIn for $26 billion. Much has been written about why this may make sense for Microsoft. What’s less clear is: What motivated LinkedIn to take this path? I’ll attempt to answer this at the […]

Dissecting This Week’s Media Fissure

(Disclaimer: Before a writer rips me apart or tweets this post without reading it fully, I used to be a long-time columnist for TechCrunch (the most frequent contributor they’ve ever had, over 100 posts and nearly 100 videos over a three period. I’m also a small, early-stage investor […]

In Fundraising, As In Politics, “It’s The People, Stupid!”

People will sometimes stop and ask me, “How did you become an investor?” To which I usually reply, “I’m not a real investor — I just play one online.” It’s partly a joke, but there’s some truth to it — it’s easy to write a few small checks […]

What The Money Folks Are Saying

There’s a lot of noise about what’s happening the private startup market. It’s easy to just say X and Y are happening and read the headlines. Today, I got an email from Industry Ventures (IV), which acts as an LP into various VC funds and invests in “special […]

When Inbound And Outbound Get Turned Upside Down

In the world between founders and investors, both sides should always be mindful of their interpersonal behaviors — especially being aware if the origin of each relationship is outbound, inbound, or mutually developed. In a situation where one experiences inbound interest, that person is often at an advantage […]

Medium Rare

I love Medium, the product. I wish I had the opportunity to invest. When Greylock became their first institutional investor, I knew Medium would be a billion dollar exit and wrote about it here. Since then, other great investors and firms have backed up their trucks to ride […]

Shift To Consumer Investing

I intend to shift most (not all) of my focus back over to consumer investing in Haystack 3. In my first fund, it was dominated by consumer. That wasn’t intentional. I was just starting out, I was a dog chasing cars. In my second fund, most of it […]

The Chocolate Chip Cookie Company

Nearly a decade ago, I met an investor while I was in Boston who was trying to explain to me how some very rich people like to invest. This is many years before I become interested in investing myself. He called it “The Chocolate Chip Cookie Company” syndrome. […]

Minimum Wage, Maximum Automation

The State of California recently unveiled a plan to increase minimum wage in the state to $15/hour by 2023. Currently, America’s national minimum wage is $7.25/hour, which hasn’t increased since 2009. The concept of minimum wage is complicated, and I don’t want this post to be focused what […]

Investors Are Going Botsh*t Crazy

Bots. They are everywhere in startup land. It feels like a gold rush — a bot rush. And, there is a backlash, as well — a botlash. Whether it’s more and more people using Slack and other messaging apps and come across these new bots and features, the […]

Human Memory, Connected Storage, and Digital Nostalgia

I caught up on Lefsetz’s blogs from the past two weeks yesterday. A few stuck out, like always. In particular, he wrote something about his history of Springsteen concerts, which you can read here. His recounting touches on all sorts of nostalgia triggered by following The Boss over […]

Picking, Riding, And Investing In The Next Great Technology Wave

The last big wave which helped generate huge returns for technology investors was largely driven by phones. Building apps and services on top of phone sensors, connected to the network, gave us new media apps like Instagram and Snapchat, new communication tools like Whatsapp and Messenger, and new […]

Early-Stage Investing: Notes From The Field, Mid-March 2016

Where is the early-stage financing market for startups today, mid-March 2016? In my opinion, and depending on where specifically you sit, right back where it left off. After a few bumps over the last 9 months, with little shocks in July 2015, a bigger shock in August 2015, […]

Black Swan Politics

This post is not about taking a side on a political issue or for a particular candidate, or drawing a line between what’s right or wrong. Before this could be twisted by others, let me say I do not condone the messages being used in the campaigns in question […]

Thank You, Surge, May I Have Another?

Late last night, around 10:30pm (“late” for parents), my brother (who is visiting from the NYC area) and I were standing in my kitchen as he was getting an UberX to head back to the city. There’s never really surge at that time. He started with 1.7x. Waited […]

Quickly Dissecting GM’s Acquisition Of Cruise Automation

I haven’t written here in a while (for my usual pace). Lots going on. So, I need to get back into it. The world isn’t quite right when I’m not able to collect and organize my thoughts here. And, luckily, I woke up before everyone today and, from […]

Twitter: While You Were Away, Episode 3

Third installment of our new podcast, “While You Were Away,” a sort of Rap Genius for tech Twitter conversations. Joel Andren (who hosts this podcast) does a terrific job stalking Twitter to see conversations unfold and learning from them. 1/ Startup in SF – Worth It?, relating early […]

Twitter: While You Were Away, Episode 2

Second installment of the new podcast, “While You Were Away,” a sort of Rap Genius for tech Twitter conversations. Joel Andren (who hosts this podcast) does a terrific job stalking Twitter to see conversations unfold and learning from them. 1/ Startups vs Regulation, relating to changes at Zenefits. […]

The Story Behind My Investments In Booster Fuels and AquaCloud

Oil and water do not mix. When one attempts to mix them, they separate. Despite the laws of basic chemistry, it turns out oil and water do, in fact, mix in the Haystack portfolio. Oil and water have been in the news lately. Regarding oil, where the price […]

New Podcast: “Twitter: While You Were Away”

For years, I’ve been wanting to do a simple podcast. However, while I always used to organize them, I didn’t want to do that this time around. I planted a few seeds with friends but nothing clicked. Then, my friend Joel Andren tweeted he wanted to start one, […]

Investing Notes From The Upfront Summit (2016)

At the start of 2015, I was lucky to head down to LA for The Upfront Summit. It was a blast, so I was excited for this year’s event, and 2016 was even better. I just got back to The Valley last night after two days in Hollywood, […]

Challenges And Opportunities For Seed Funds (2016 version)

A while back, I wrote a post here on the “5 Challenges Facing The MicroVC Model.” Since then, I’ve added more and more, and now we’re up to nine. Some LPs I talk to frequently have joked “if there are so many challenges, why do it?” It’s a […]

Navigating The Gap Between Seed And Series A (2016 Version)

I try to help anyone coming through the network gear up for financings. Lately, the famous “gap” between seed and larger VCs for Series A has been exposed again. This “gap” has been written about ad nauseam, so I won’t do that here. Instead, let’s discuss how a […]

Investment Criteria, Focus, and Process For Haystack Fund 3

Investment Criteria For Haystack #3 For my third fund, Haystack III, which is still a small fund (but larger relative to my previous funds), I wanted to share a simple and straightforward guidepost for founders, seed syndicate partners, angels, and larger VC firms as to what I’m looking […]

Quick Reaction To PG’s Essay, “Refragmentation”

As Paul Graham usually does with his essays, he makes a deep point with relative ease. Today’s essay, which many of you have read (and if you haven’t, please read it here) is even more intense. I had a sense he would be writing about the relationship between […]

Quick Follow-Up On Facebook, FreeBasics, And India

A few days ago, I wrote an opinion post on my blog, based on my point of view on what I’ve read and my experiences working in India, about the debate going on India currently between’s Facebook’s desire to push FreeBasics and the impassioned response (among many of […]

Looking Ahead To 2016

Earlier this week, I tried to boil down the top trends that defined the startup and investing landscape for 2015. Next up, I want to think about what will shape our experiences in 2016. This isn’t going to be a post about pontificated predictions like “Digital Healthcare is […]

Facebook Meets The License Raj Of India

It’s easy to think of Facebook as the world’s largest social network. It takes a bit more imagination to envision Facebook as the world’s dominant global nation-state, a new type state where citizens can connect and communicate across political borders and where the network’s CEO, who is only […]

The Force Awakened In 2015 Startup Tech

Star Wars is all the rage now, as it should be. As I was reflecting on 2015, indeed, the Force (of the market) awakened. Turns out there are a lot of problems in the world to solve and lots of money to fuel those experiments, but there aren’t […]

Investment Lessons From Howard Lindzon

I love reading Howard Lindzon’s blog. I subscribe to the raw RSS feed to bring the text right to my email, so I never miss a post. It is almost always straight and the point, with Howard’s biases shining through. Truth be told, I ignore about half of […]

Investing In Mobile 2016

As someone who worked in mobile, wrote about it all the time, lived and breathed iOS platform, and discussed widely my reservations for investing in the space, I’ve been thinking again lately how I’ll invest in mobile in 2016 — or even at all. I’m a broken record […]

Blocking On Twitter

Lately on Twitter, there have been some interesting threads (and posts written about those threads) on the topic of blocking people on Twitter. It’s a timeless debate with no morally correct answer. Some believe any user has the right to block others, while others believe Twitter is about […]

Haystack is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2017 Semil Shah.

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