Culture Archives

Deal Sharing Dynamics Among Early Stage Investors

A friend on Twitter recently requested a blog post, and I thought it was a good idea. He wrote: “would love nuanced seed stage view on dealflow and the sharing dynamics amongst early stage firms/super angels.” Well, here you go, with the caveat I can only (1) explain what I do, as that’s what I know, and (2) generalize a bit on what I observe, though can’t say so with absolute certainty.

I try to invest at two points in a company’s cycle. One, very, very early, too early for even the microVC funds to get involved. Two, when a round has come together, and I meet the founder who has allocated some space for individuals like me, even though a firm is leading. I’m happy letting the market dictate things for now, and this gives me a good deal of latitude to write different check sizes and swing early or late depending on the specific case.

In situations where I’ve decided to invest (whether early or toward the end of the round), I’ll ask the entrepreneur if there’s room left and if I can help fill out the round. Some times, the founder will be all set; other times, they’ll say, “sure!” In those cases, I first email the LPs in Haystack, as I’ve initially committed to the company out of a joint fund, and on occasion (though it’s rare), someone will like the option to invest more directly. Then, after 24 hours, I will email a specific list I’ve created of angels, microVCs, bigVCs, family offices, and foundations that I all know personally. There are about 45-50 people on the list. The criteria for being on the list is simple — do I know the person and would I feel comfortable sending a founder to them in the event there was mutual interest in meeting. (I’ve only had to remove one person from the list.) There are also cases where syndicating on AngelList makes sense, as I’ve written about earlier.

The reason I elected to create this email list is that because I’m investing so early, there’s not much data to work off of other than the fact that I’ve vetted the opportunity in some way. So, instead, I just email the list and everyone on the list gets the email at the same time. They’re free to act on it if they choose, or simply ignore it. Very lightweight. On rare occasions, something will be very tailored to another investor I know, and in those cases, I’ll personally reach out to that investor, but I’d say that’s happened less than 10 times.

After doing this email sharing list for about a year, it’s been interesting to see some patterns emerge. Most people don’t reply, as I’m sure they’re inundated with dealflow these days. Some people habitually love to meet new founders, and some bigger VCs like to meet to build a relationship early. Some people who follow-on an investment write back to say “thank you” or give feedback, and some just move on to the next thing. A few people will share back in sort of a reciprocal way, and some won’t. I don’t have any expectations around it because, at the end of the day, I go early and direct with founders and it’s all about getting them the right investors and dollar amounts once I’ve committed.

For those who nerd out on VC happenings on Twitter, you may notice lots of “small A” rounds ($2-5m level) getting done by the same cast of syndicate microVC firms quite often. I’d gather many of them share deals based on years of working together and relationships. Companies that raise these new “small A” rounds need runway to breathe, and when you unpack how these microVC firms are capitalized and their check sizes, it makes sense they collaborate often and work together on forming rounds. I’d also imagine, however, that there’s lots of jockeying and “hey, can you make room for me?” texts and emails going on to get into deals, and if something heats up in this environment with strong signals (say, the right branded investor, getting into YC, and having something unique), that company could raise way more than they need…there’s an oversupply of money for those companies, so they have to choose and or cut down peoples’ allocations. This is part of a challenge facing microVC stage, which I’ve written about earlier.

Ultimately, I’m more of a wallflower to all of this. I’m still learning. Sometimes I time things well or move early enough, and sometimes, I’m a shade too late or just not making the cut to get into a deal. This is also why I spend time speaking and writing about what I’m interested in, with the hopes that some founders will reach out to me, even if early, to talk and brainstorm. I may miss things this way, but for now, it provides calmer waters to swim in.

Apple, Marketing, and Black Culture

I watched a few videos of MLK yesterday before going to bed yesterday, on MLK day. They were queued up in my email and social feeds. This year on MLK Day, I noticed more people sharing videos and images of MLK, much more than in the past. Maybe with better and cheaper data coverage, more phones everywhere, access to YouTube and other image galleries, and social networks allowing not only more customized distribution but also different channels (and therefore content) to capture our attention. I think most people who could took some time off yesterday to be with friends and family, and I also wouldn’t be surprised if they watched an MLK video that was shared or read up on some shared articles.

Then, I noticed someone shared the homepage for Apple.com. Here’s the screenshot, below. Apple is a company that has soul, in the sense they put meaning into their products. Now, not everyone may like that approach and this is also marketing, but it’s effective marketing:

Screenshot 2015-01-19 19.29.44

It reminded me of the 2014 Holiday Season ad by Apple that showed a young, black girl using an iPhone and Mac products to upload old audio from her grandmother and then using Garage Band to remix the sound. The result is a gift for her grandmother that reminded me of the Private Press segments used in DJ’s Shadow’s album, “The Private Press” — click here to hear a sample of that. Powerful, powerful sounds.

It wasn’t too long ago that race and Apple was in the news. Remember when news started to leak that Apple would buy Beats by Dre? Everyone had an idea about the angle, the rationale — some liked it, some thought it was dumb. Most shocking to me were the sneers when it was floated Dr. Dre could be an executive at the company. Well, why not? Funny that was even an issue. But now look back at some of the best Beats commercials out there — I picked this one from Colin Kaepernick (see below). This is what Apple is also interested in, expanding from fanboy culture into different products (like headsets) to put their sensors into (like Apple Watch, etc.).

And, then, I was reminded of Tim Cook’s October op-ed in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, where he shared his own situation but also tied that struggle with the struggle of minorities in general, writing:

Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day…I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others…We’ll continue to fight for our values, and I believe that any CEO of this incredible company, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, would do the same. And I will personally continue to advocate for equality for all people until my toes point up.

All of this, in just the last 4-6 months. It isn’t discussed often, and maybe it’s marketing, too — but there’s a pattern here, and a clever one at that. Apple is using powerful images, quotes, videos, and other forms of media created by black artists and orators. And, while it’s great PR, I also believe it’s quite genuine and surely consistent. The company is obviously intentional with how it interacts with the public at large. Many companies may try this kind of PR, but they wouldn’t be able to pull it off. When you step back and look at the language in the letters, the imagery and messages on their site, the cultural strategy in acquiring Beats, and the 2014 holiday video spot, the threads tie together tastefully to portray a different side of Apple not often covered in the tech blogs.

Challenges Facing The MicroVC Model

Lately, I’ve been thinking there are some real threats to the microVC model (say, sub $50M funds). This isn’t to say some won’t do very well — and especially the recent news from Dan Primack in FORTUNE about the first Lowercase fund, which will soon be the stuff of legends and, scarily, isn’t done collecting returns just yet. So, Sacca took about $6-8M and turned it into well over $1B.

Could that happen again? It could, but the glut of small funds (full disclosure — I am part of this problem!) need to show returns to survive. And, therein lies the rub — returns. There are some things going on in the early-stages that threaten the return profile of funds, such as:

  • Pro Rata Rights: This has been discussed at length over Twitter, on the blogs. Dave Lerner has a good summary here. Essentially, early investors who are granted pro rata rights often are asked to relinquish them at the next round of financing. In my experience, this can be about 18% dilution per round. If the model of a fund is driven by returns from the outlier (should a fund be lucky to have an outlier), the lack of strength in retaining pro rata can directly impact IRR and overall fund performance.
  • YC Alumni and YC Itself: A company can take $120k or so from YC, find product market fit, and go right to a large VC firm. I’ve seen it happen a few times. Amazing companies in those examples. Elsewhere, the strong network effect described by Elad Gil in his post allows this new and growing network to fund current students from alumni tithings, except here the investments are direct and can be quite meaningful. Going from seed to A to B for a YC founder or alum as an investor could show unrealized markups of 20x in about a year (I’ve seen this). The point here is — they have access before the micros.
  • Crowdfunding: This has been written about often. A good source here is Matt Witheiler’s blog “Bits of Cents.” Briefly, founders can use crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter to test demand, take a range of pre-orders, and then go right to a big VC if there’s a strong team, market, and evidence of consumer demand.
  • Syndicates: This is a form of crowdfunding on AngelList, but worth mentioning separately here. Even raising $500k right now can take lots of time, and while it’s not totally easy, the money is everywhere. If an individual investor with a Syndicate wants to just put in $25k and has enough in the Syndicate to fill out the round, the founder may elect — in the interest of time — to just take the money, the one line item from AngelList, and go forward. Here, speed is the issue — instead of meeting a bunch of micros, just take the initial money and see what happens.
  • Big VCs and Companies With An Appetite To Go Early: VCs are incubating companies. They’re doing seeds in great teams because they have bigger funds and money needs to be put to work. A great team will be funded. Oh, and big companies are playing, too.

The common thread here is to isolate groups, dynamics, or vehicles that have access to early-stage deals before micros can get in (or want to take the risk). There are some glimmers of hope for microVC, however. One, small funds can be more nimble, creative, and cobble together returns as it’s easier to return smaller funds. Two, the “Sacca Effect” will surely ripple not only among GPs (it may have already), but also LPs who will start to see the hidden potential of strategically placed micro funds. And, three, the microVC firms are getting bigger (some of them) and now leading rounds around $2-3M, which is new Series A. I go back and forth on this myself. Sometimes, I think investors can get trapped in seed, yet sometimes I think, this is where all the important relationships get formed.

The Story Behind My Investment In eShares

For most of the second half of 2014, I tried to find early-stage companies doing interesting things with smart contracts. I was lucky to find one (still very early), and I’ll write about that more later in the year. Then, another thought occurred to me — this is what eShares could do. So, I searched AngelList, saw a mutual friend invested, asked for an intro, and emailed back and forth with Henry until he agreed to meet.

It took about 4-6 weeks to meet. When I walked in, he said they closed their round with a larger investor (which is why he was so quiet) but had a bit of room left for a few individuals. I waved my hand. He laughed.

For anyone who has had to deal with startup stock certificates, shares, and dispersing (or receiving) funds upon a triggering event, there’s a lot of complicated, messy, and oftentimes confusing rules and procedures. In the abstract, I’m sure we all understand the pain. While many people want this stuff on the block chain (vis a vis smart contracts), it may take time for the technologies to mature to the point where a company like eShares verifies the certificates and transactions, not entirely peer-verified. eShares has that chance to win the ledger business.

Months after investing, I was talking to Henry offline about stock certificates, and tweeted this out. That tweet, surprisingly, turned into a firestorm, ended up in a great blog post by Henry on Medium (over 50k views), Fred Wilson wrote about it, and TechCrunch covered the issue thereafter. That has the makings of a real problem startups (founders, employees, investors) face collectively, and eShares may just be the right idea at the right time to help solve it.

Beginning New Conversations On Twitter

Over the last week, I’ve been posting about minorities in tech, startups, and investing. The core issue here is while most investment capital for startups resides in the Valley and SF and while most deals originate through referral networks, using curated lists on Twitter could (theoretically) help foster conversation outside traditional networks — especially with folks who are not often represented.

Since then, Intel announced a huge $300M diversity fund initiative, and Fred Wilson wrote about what folks in investing and startups can do to help. Last weekend, I created a public Twitter list called URM, for “underrepresented minorities” in tech, startups, and investing — Kristy Tillman (@KristyT) from Boston helped out a ton! She created a hashtag for this called #URMList. You can check out and subscribe to the list here. What’s cool is that there are already more people subscribed to the list than on the list (for instance, Marc Andreessen, Fred, my colleagues at GGV, and many more now follow the list) — though I want to keep adding more and more people. I received almost 50 different emails from folks with ideas on how to get investors to engage with #URMList on Twitter:

  1. People who are on the #URMList likely don’t know each other. The list is public. Please subscribe to it even if you’re on the list.
  2. Please keep sending me suggestions and twitter handles for more people to add to #URMList.
  3. Second step in this plan was for me to create another public Twitter list of SF/Valley investors (plus a few others) who engage often on Twitter. Here it is, subscribe here.

So, here’s the next thing I’d suggest people do — begin conversations with people on each list, both the VC list and the #URMList. I’ve started to a bit when I’m on desktop using TweetDeck. There are about 200 members on #URMLIst and I know 2 of them personally, and the rest I’m just listening to. I think it will take lots of time to find overlapping interests, but Twitter isn’t going anywhere and either are any of us.

Instacart On Bloomberg West TV

I made my live TV debut yesterday on Bloomberg TV. I’m hoping I’ll do more video moving forward. As someone who has done lots of video (but not live), I’m looking forward to it. I’d love any feedback you have. Clearly, I need a wardrobe refresh and dammit – I wish I was in better shape and had some fashion sense! Ugh!

The interview with Cory yesterday was about Instacart. You’ve probably heard a bit about them already, and you should prepare to hear much more about them soon. Americans spend almost $700 billion annually on groceries. The pull of the market is very strong. There’s a lot of growth to come, and watching the team launch new cities is fun. As a former cook, I still love going to the grocery store and picking up ingredients, but there are just times I can’t go — and Instacart works every time I need it to. Easy and simple. And, very soon, quite big, too.

An Important Twitter List

It’s been an interesting couple of days. On Friday, I posted about women and minorities in startups and investing, and yesterday, I followed-up with a more targeted post focused on underrepresented minorities (URM) in startups and investing. I’m trying to listen and focus on small things I can do in my limited capacity that may have leverage. The main argument I’ve found most compelling relates to networks and information theory — that if any investment pipeline is a product of an individual’s or firm’s own network, and if the Silicon Valley and SF proper (where most venture capital resides) is — let’s face it — not racially diverse — then the pipelines may only be tapping certain wells.

So, I started thinking about this last night. Here’s my thought process: 1/ Twitter is the single-greatest networking tool for folks in startups and investing. 2/ Most investors either are on Twitter (or should be, in my opinion). 3/ Underrepresented minorities in general make up a significant portion of activity and culture on Twitter (especially in America). 4/ Twitter facilitates conversations with the least amount of friction, seen lately around conversations I unassumingly started on pro-rata rights, physical stock certificates, and this topic, too.

And…there’s my idea to start, to kickstart more lightweight, organic discussion that’s outside the normal everyday networks and routines for investors. So, here’s what I did:

First, I created a public list on Twitter called “URM” which is a list of underrepresented minorities in startups, tech, and investing on Twitter. So far, there are over 100 members I’ve put into the list and I’ll make it my small contribution to keep adding to this list until my fingers bleed. You can follow the list by clicking here — note lists strip out most conversation @ reply mention tweets, so it will be higher signal.

Second, if you’re an investor on Twitter and reading this, please subscribe to the list and make a concerted effort to engage in conversation with people on the list. There’s no requirement to follow anyone and this should be more about getting to know other people over time and engaging in discussion versus investment pitches. Right now, I see about 30 people have subscribed to the list, and when I check it next week, it would be nice to see 100s of investors subscribed, too.

Twitter seems like the perfect first step here. It’s lightweight, easy, conversational, and if you’re reading this, you’ve likely met many of the strongest people in your network using Twitter, so what’s to say that it can’t continue? There’s no travel required, no email, no pitches…just a public dialogue…and likely an easy way to make new friends. In just 24 hours, I know I have.

Underrepresented Minorities In Startups And Investing

Yesterday, I wrote a post about “women, minorities, startups, and investing.” I expected it to drum up some discussion, and though it took some time, it did today. I’m using these blogs and conversations on Twitter as a chance to learn. It’s not easy. What I’m learning so far is often obvious but worth repeating. One, lumping “women and minorities” works but only up to a point. I’ll use “URM” now to talk about “underrepresented minorities,” which are mainly blacks and latinos/as, among others. For women, though I’m starting to personally see more female founders and investors, most of them are white or of Asian descent. Where I think I can add a small bit of leverage and maybe make a difference would be related to URM, so that’s what I’ll focus on.

What Do Basic Demographics Say?

Some of this stuff is obvious but worth writing out. While the U.S. is evenly split on gender (about 50.8% females, but growing), census data shows 77.7% who are white, 17.1% who are Hispanic or Latino/a, about 13% who are black, about 5.3% who are Asian. According to PEW, both Hispanic and Asian population rates have been growing in America, but for different reasons — increased birth rate for Hispanics, and immigration for Asians. The black population in America has been growing just a tad faster than the overall population, while Latinos are growing so fast in some areas, they’ll surpass whites in total population — see California. [Outside America, of course, with mobile platforms growing like weeds and new ones like Xiaomi on the rise, entrepreneurs worldwide can now "go global" a lot faster and attack markets far away from home.]

What Are The Key Arguments?

I’ve heard many great arguments as to why the current financing setup doesn’t work for all parties. Too many to list here, so I’ll try to summarize the best ones here in the spirit of getting to quick agreement and hopefully action below. First, investors love large, growing, dynamic markets, so if that holds (which is certainly true), then at minimum, the Latino growth rate points to a massive market and network (again, obvious) and a huge number of black citizens which jointly represent enormous buying power. Second, most private venture investment which happens early at the seed stage involves people with money or small funds (like me) who meet people through networks, referrals, and groups — however, at least in the Valley, which is not racially diverse in the technology sector, and since most investment seems to happen locally (I know I prefer to invest locally), it’s hard to even see URM founders, let alone investors. As a result, we have to actively seek them out, outside already formed networks and probably outside the geography.

What Can I Do In My Capacity?

I have spent the last 24 hours trying to come up with concrete ideas of things I can do. I am a small investor (writing $25,000 checks) but try to catalyze investment rounds when I have conviction. My personal preference when investing very early in people I don’t know personally is to get to know them over time. I have done this with 5-6 founders with whom I had no connection to, and after a few months, I got to a point of conviction. I write a lot here and on Twitter, though I don’t have a big platform — for any random post I write here, on average it generates about 1,000 page views. Not bad, but it ain’t going to move the needle.

So, what am I going to do? I’m open to suggestions, but so far, I’ve thought of the following: (1) I’m going to focus on URM and to start, created a public Twitter list called “URM” and will start adding to this aggressively (Link to my URM Twitter List. It’s small right now, but please forgive me as I’ll add to it over the next few days. I’m going out to run an errand now but will get back to it). My hope here is that I’ll listen and learn the landscape over time and hopefully make some new friends. I don’t have much of a social life these days but Twitter is a great place to meet people, I’m convinced of that. (2) I’d be happy to work with any conference organizer on making sure larger, open events have a URM-style carve-out or scholarships for people to attend. I know first-hand it’s hard to get parity up on stage with panelists and while the crowds are getting more diverse at events. Maybe the solution is like an “Intel Inside” sticker but one for URM at events. (3) While I stopped Sunday Conversations, I’d be happy to partner with someone on a podcast series focused on URM. I don’t want to commit to this myself given my schedule this year, but I will happily work with someone who cares about this, has demonstrable podcast experience, and set up the show for success. I want to involved in shaping it, so please consider this an open invitation to get in touch.

Finally, as a very small and usually inconsequential investor who has little to no leverage and doesn’t even get pro rata rights in rounds, people in the conversation over the last 24 hours encouraged me to simply state that I will fund URM-led companies. I feel weird writing that because, shit, of course I would (and have)! It never crossed my mind that I should state it publicly, but one, the life of startups and investing invariably involves a ton of “no’s” as answers, as frustrating as that is, and those “no’s” come for a variety of reasons that are fair and unfair; two, that doesn’t mean any and all pitches with me will end with a “yes” because I tend to be a picky person, but all I care about is meeting dynamic people who have already started something that is being used. I would prefer to meet new people without the pressure of an investment decision. My email is listed on my site and I’m quite open about my interests, networks, and style. Hope to meet you soon.

Thoughts On Women, Minorities, Startups, and Investing

I’m partly afraid to write this for fear of being misinterpreted, but it’s been on my mind and come up in conversation more lately, oftentimes uncomfortably. To share my point of view, I can only share what I’ve observed first-hand, and I realize the role investors play here is critical because often it is funding, an investment, which creates the opportunity for someone else. All this said, what I’ll share is just first-hand experiences and thoughts from roughly three and a half years working at startups, and about two of those involved in funding them (in a small way). I want to share the following not to draw a big conclusion, but rather to start a conversation and get feedback. Thanks for reading and in advance for your reactions, suggestions, disagreements, and everything else:

Work: I’ve been an employee at three startups. All were very small, by headcount. The number of women at those three were, respectively, 1, 0, and 3. In terms of minorities, maybe 1-2 at most. Most startups that don’t start to really scale will likely be quite small. I never recalled hiring decisions taking into account race or gender; in fact, the companies would’ve hired more people regardless of shape or color to fill roles they needed. The Bay Area is a big, big place, and I’m sure for every color-gender blind place, there may be two that try to shape their culture through hiring. A larger question here is how do more and more women and minorities get on a path to be qualified for opportunities, and while the work here can never be over, it does seem like it’s being discussed in a healthy way and being addressed at the educational level.

TechCrunch TV: In 2011, I started a weekly TV show while I was a guest columnist at TechCrunch. I picked every topic and guest myself. It’s primarily startup CEOs and investors. Looking back, there were a small handful of women on the show (though I know I invited many more, but most of them either didn’t respond, or their PR departments said “no”). At that time, I admittedly wasn’t thinking of seeking out underrepresented minorities, too. Looking back, I wish I did, but I was just focused on technology and investing topics.

Sunday Conversations: I started my own video series on investing after TCTV ended, and I did only seven of them (all men), and the last year was just with one guest. Video is hard because not many people watch them. My platform is pretty small. Sunday Conversations is over now, but I’m open to new media ideas.

Post-Seed Conference: I recently was part of a committee which organized a successful conference in December 2013. In our planning meetings (one of the organizers is a woman), we discussed the issue of gender balance on the panels at least 3-4x. I know we all reached out to women investors and we weren’t able to either line up dates or in many cases, we didn’t get a response. A friend who is a woman who used to work in VC emailed me about it, and I tried to explain, but it was clear it opened up a wound. I am not sure what else I could’ve done.

Venture Capital Firms: This is a wide criticism across the industry. If you look at the top 5-6 firms that Limited Partners commonly refer to as the absolute best venture capital firms, and if you look at the general partners (the people who also put up capital alongside the firm and write checks on behalf of the firm), there’s not much diversity. There are two nuanced arguments here: On one hand, that the goal of venture is to deploy capital and generate returns; or on the other hand, that as gatekeepers of capital (and therefore access), capital should be deployed to give any and everyone with promise a chance to carry out their vision and dream. I am not sure what the right formula is. In my work with many different VC firms, I’ve never once seen a partner or an investment decision touch on an entrepreneur’s race or gender. There are many examples of growth startups founded and led by women, though I’d imagine it’s much smaller for underrepresented minorities. Yet, very few people as a total percentage of who try to get funded actually get a term sheet, and those are hard decisions to receive.

Minorities, In General: When I say underrepresented minorities in technology and startups, I’m talking about people of races and ethnicities that we all rarely see at startups, conferences, in venture capital. I’m starting to see more women (versus three years ago), but not many underrepresented minorities. That’s just in the Valley and SF, though I’d suspect other cities and their tech nuclei are getting much more racially diverse by the day.

As A Very Small Seed Investor: I got the idea to write about this after a healthy yet uncomfortable chat with a friend of mine who is a female founder and an underrepresented minority. I mentioned that out of the 60+ investments I’ve made from Haystack, just a few are women. I told I just didn’t see many, and she took issue with that. It was an uncomfortable conversation, and I’ve thought about it a lot since. It’s why I’m writing this. A few weeks have passed, and I think her issue is that “no women or minorities in the pipeline” is too simplistic. Rather, she encouraged me to think about (1) values-based investing, as a means to use my small check and relationships to create positive signals for people who would otherwise not be seen and (2) to pause and think about the fact that women entrepreneurs may not be as comfortable “pitching” male investors.

I am not sure I have any good answers. I don’t want to grandstand with canned outrage or shame others. I invest very small amounts ($25,000) and try to catalyze rounds when I see something interesting that’s very early and raw. I would like to take a more active approach versus looking at the pipeline, though on a day to day basis, I worry about my own survival and am deploying other peoples’ capital. I’m writing this not to put forth any big solutions or great answers — but more as a reflection and to see if any of you have concrete ideas on things I can do in my limited role. I can’t promise I will be able to do all of them, but I will try to find the best ones and see if I can.

Addressing Some Personal Misconceptions

One of the few things I’ve learned with a bit of age is to identify friends/colleagues who don’t mind giving tough feedback. I ask them for feedback quite often, and at the end of the year, I share my goals for the next year with them and encourage them to push back, guide, and help me shape them. One of the things I noticed through these conversations last quarter is that my writing and activity on Twitter may have given others a slight misconception about me and my interests. So, I thought I would bring them up and clarify them:

1/ I’m all-in on the “on-demand economy.” I think this term is loaded and confuses people. When you order an Uber, it’s on-demand. When you order Instacart, it’s more likely scheduled. There’s a tendency to lump all of these together, but there’s also “curbside” delivery models, “pick-up” models, and others. “On-Demand Economy” has taken on a life of its own, and that’s great, but many of the great services we chatter about aren’t truly “on-demand” – it’s just that it feels that way given the ease of tapping a few buttons on mobile.

2/ I only invest in mobile companies. I worked on mobile products and apps for three years and spent most of my column at TechCrunch on mobile, but that doesn’t mean I just invest in mobile. Now having invested in over 60 companies, over half of them B2B, a number are in new emergent platforms like Bitcoin and virtual reality, and stalwarts like SaaS and even a little hardware. For mobile, yes, any modern consumer effort will touch on mobile, but mobile distribution itself if a bitch (I’ve written extensively on this) so I’m always reluctant to swing here.

3/ I can help with coverage on TechCrunch. Ugh. No. I can’t. First, as of April last year, my column was sunset there, and second, gunning for TC coverage these days is usually not a great use of time. There are great reporters there and the trick is to develop relationships with them ahead of time, before you need it, by either building something interesting and/or engaging with them in a human way.

4/ It’s not clear what I’m working on. Yes, I admit my path has been not clean or easy to parse. Now in 2015, it’s getting cleaner…I’m a Venture Advisor to Bullpen Capital (early-stage and post-seed) and GGV Capital (stage-agnostic). I also invest small amounts out of a small fund called Haystack. I’m also writing a book on Uber in 2015, will be attending fewer events, not publicly speaking at events, but will likely be writing/blogging/tweeting even more.

5/ I’m not entirely new anymore. For a while, I’d qualify things by saying “well, I’m new here.” Now’s been about 3.5 years and this August will mark a full four years “in the game.” That means, for someone who writes a lot, tries to predict things, and puts my name on it, I have to slowly start showing there was a method to the madness. I planted a bunch of seeds and some have started to sprout. I’m excited to see what will happen.

Haywire is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2015 Semil Shah.

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