The Entrepreneur’s 12 Days of Fund Raising
On the 1st day of Fund Raising my VC gave to me- an expiring term sheet at $4mm Pre.

On the 2nd day of Fund Raising my VC gave to me- a due diligence list from Ato Z.

On the 3rd day of Fund Raising my VC gave to me- a junior associate with ADD.

On the 4th day of Fund Raising my VC gave to me- a meeting with a blackberry-addicted GP.

On the 5th day of Fund Raising my VC gave to me- a CEO candidate with a high opinion and a gotee.

On the 6th day of Fund Raising my VC gave to me- a Lawyer and uncapped legal fee.

On the 7th day of Fund Raising my VC gave to me- a co-investor with an embellished CV.

On the 8th day of Fund Raising my VC gave to me- a lavish dinner paid for by me.

On the 9th day of Fund Raising my VC gave to me- a technical consultant with Turrets and a double E.

On the 10th day of Fund Raising my VC gave to me- a 40 minute wait and cold cup of tea.

On the 11th day of Fund Raising my VC gave to me- a ride in his beloved S63 AMG.

On the 12th day of Fund Raising my VC gave to me- a revised term sheet with a new T and a revised C.

D Bag of the Year

It’s that time of year again.  The time when the Yearly honors are bestowed.  One of the best known is Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.  The annual magazine cover used be ”Man of the Year” but the PC police replaced “Man” with “Person.” I suspect at some point it will be “Organism of the Year.”  We don’t want to leave out animals and plants- that’s not PC.  So I thought I would add my honor to the list to balance Time Magazine and others.  I call my Yearly honor “D Bag of the Year. ”  To be fair, the Time Magazine “Person of the Year’ isn’t necessarily a “good” person.  They are just the “Person of the Year” according to the brain trust at Time.  There have been several questionable characters on that list i.e. W, the Ayatollah, etc. 

My motivation for D Bag of the Year is to highlight great examples of bad examples.  These are people that do more harm than good.  Many of these people would be more useful as food than members of society.  Please don’t label me a Hater.  I am a Lover with a dark side that emerges when I see a foul committed.  Everyone has the right to throw a yellow flag (and a red challenge flag twice a game).  This is me throwing my flag.  So here are the finalists that didn’t win but deserve credit for discrediting themselves:

Finalists

o  Jesse James.  What a nitwit.  Did he really think he could fool all the people all    the time.  He wins the Tiger Woods Award but not the D Bad of the Year. 

o  Bernie Madoff.  Bernie is a finalist again this Year because his actions led to the suicide of his Son.  I wonder how the fellas in the cell block will celebrate this Holiday Season with Bernie.

o  Philip Markoff.  The Craig’s List Killer.  A promising medical Student with a pretty Fiancée and the world by the balls.  Apparently it wasn’t enough or he just had a screw loose.  He robbed the family of the woman he murdered by offing himself this year before he could be prosecuted putting him the running for D Bag of the Year.

o  LeBron James.  The way he dissed the good people of Cleveland on the way out was classless, egotistical and selfish.  It’s bad enough to be struggling to make ends meet in a rusting Industrial City without a kick in the balls. 

o  Major Nidal Malik Hasan.  This D Bag killed innocent people and fellow soldiers on his Ft. Hood rampage.  It’s bad enough our boys have to fight the enemy overseas.  He is a Coward and a D Bag. 

o  Brett Farve.  Sending pictures of your junk to a young woman is a good way to land yourself on the D Bag of the Year list.  Thinking that you are so fabulous that the mere texting of an pic of your unit will cause women to rush to your bed in a horny fit is an even better way to get on the list. 

o  Tony Hayward.  He wanted his life back even as birds were dying, fisherman were starving and the Gulf Coast line was awash in Petroleum from his well.  I’d say he got his life back and a slot on the list. 

o  The Entire Cast of Jersey Shore.  Are you F-in’ kiddin’ me.  Apparently Americans are fascinated by human train wrecks.  This is proof positive that being a major D Bag can make you famous.  These guys are potentially perennial winners. 

Winner of D Bad of the Year

John Edwards.  This former trial lawyer and North Carolina Governor edges out some of our other Finalists.  He might have escaped the dishonor of being crowned the winner had it not been for the unfortunate passing of his wife.  This dude is as slippery and slimy as the Grinch without the redemption.  His most D Bagalicious quality is his gift for prevarication.  He has a black belt in lying.  Congratulations John.  You are the winner of the 2010 D Bag of the Year. 

Dishonorable Mention

o  Charles Rangel.  Yes, you did it and no you can’t hide behind your elected desk and claim immunity. 

o  Julian Assuage.  Yes he is.  I actually love watching the Politicos squirm but this guy didn’t do it for the good of mankind.  He did it for attention. 

o  Pfc. Bradley Manning.  He stole confidential information and gave it to Assuage to publish knowing that it could compromise the safety of some.  While his motivation may have been understandable, his approach was not.   

o  Nancy Pelosi.  Sorry.  Had to do it.  She just irks me.  So does Barney Frank.  They fiddled while Rome burned and then screamed “fire.” 

o  Mahmud Ahmadinejad.  The President of Iran is more of a rabble-rouser than the true head of State but his threatening rhetoric is sufficient to win him a spot on the list. 

o  Kim Jong.  This big-haired dictator is rattling his little saber in Asia.  He is in the same basic class at Ahmadinejad. 

o  Mark Sanford.  The South Carolina Governor squeaks onto the list because he is such a weasel.  He doesn’t make it up to the finalist section because he fesses up when pinned down.  

 

Editor’s Note:  You may have noticed that the list this year is full of Politicians.  Sad but true.  The very people that we elect and entrust with our well being seem to have a propensity to act like D Bags.  I think one reason is because dishonesty, hubris and abuse of power are sure-fire ways to land on the list.  Another reason is that the public light shines brightest on celebrities; and, elected officials tend to have a deep-seated desire for attention.  Unfortunately for them, attention is a double-edged sword. 

Who didn’t make the list? Adam Wheeler, the 24 year old student that lied his way into Harvard and received $50k in scholarships and grants pretending to be a transfer student from MIT and Phillips Academy with a stellar record of achievement.  In reality, he was a B student from Bowdoin.  The lying and robbing another student of a chance to go to Harvard is a D Bag move but he does get points for his Chutzpah.  I wonder how many others have gotten away with that.  Methinks a bunch.  That’s it for this Year’s list.  Tune in next Year to see who’s been naughty and a major league D Bag.

iTV anyone?

Apple has desktop computers, portable media players, mobile phones, tablet computers, a media gateway (AppleTV) and a vast library of content.  AppleTV is a weak sister to Apple’s other products because it doesn’t share the same level of design, user experience and simplicity as Apple’s other, more successful products.  If I were Apple, I would consider making a TV that combines a media gateway, navigation system and DVR capability that is easy to use and integrates what is needed to connect web video to a TV i.e. a seamless and plug and play broadband connection to the TV.  After all, a TV is just a monitor.  Apple already have most of the components for their TV.  All it needs to do is design a bigger screen that incorporates elements of AppleTV and the iTouch/iPad and some enhanced navigation.  iTunes is already there with a large library. 

Of course Apple needs to figure out a few things like how to get the studios and networks to allow them to distribute their content including live sports, news and their catalogs of films and TV shows.  They are already half way there and the Industry is moving there a break-neck speed.  of course Apple will have to ease up on its control-oriented approach and open up to allow the consumer to access all legal content and not just what Steve wants you to see. 

What would the Apple TV (let’s call it iTV) look like- it would be between 42’ and 55’; it would be white (black maybe later); it would have an OLED screen; it would come complete with a media gateway and a direct connection to a broadband modem (including a high speed wireless connection like WiFi).  The iTV remote could be an iPad or a iTouch.  The iTV would come with iTunes, and some elements of Apple TV.   The 42’ unit will cost 50% more than the high-end LCD/LED TVs on the market.  Apple won’t have much trouble getting the premium price from its legions of devotees. 

The tricky part of the iTV introduction will be navigating the traditional video distribution ecosystem including Studios, Networks, Broadcast Cable and Satellite Services, and deals with the HBOs, Blockbusters and Walmarts of the World.  While we have made huge progress towards freeing content from the grips of tight fisted studios, we still have miles to go.  Google with GoogleTV is testing the waters with Sony and the Android OS.  Unlike Google, Apple loves making money on hardware and a TV is one big honkin’ piece of hardware. 

Apple won’t care about stepping on some toes or creating some disruption but they will have to establish some deals with content owners and distributors to gain the full effect of entering the TV market. 

So, stay tuned for Apple’s TV announcement.  Of course they may have already decided not to enter the TV market in which case the space will be open for a new TV that does what Apple would do if it designed a TV. 

 

Help Wanted

A blight looms on the horizon.  An engineering talent blight to be exact.  The bumper crop of consumer internet seeds and start-ups cropping up around the country (with concentrations in SF/SV and NYC) and binge hiring of engineering talent by companies such as Google and Facebook are creating a shortage of talent.   A blight ensues when there are hundreds of companies looking for the same people.  I would guess that there are at least twice as many engineering jobs in start-ups as there are people to fill them.  Just look at the job boards and hiring pages on the company’s web sites. 

The availability of seed and Angel money, the preponderance of infrastructure as a service and open source code, and the capital efficiency of consumer internet businesses are combining to create a shortage of talent to perform critical functions.  Add to this the “suck up all the good engineering talent” approaches of some powerful web companies and you have a shortage of people in key areas such as User Interface, Engineering Management, System Architecture, System Administration and good old fashioned coding. 

For some requirements, outsourcing is fine.  There are shops that excel at contract coding and consulting.  India Inc. is ready and waiting to develop your code.  Running your system on Amazon servers, hosting at RackSpace, using Akamai for content delivery and farming out discrete code development can be effective ways to reduce internal manpower and capital requirements.  However, some functions are risky to farm out.  I’ve seen companies burned outsourcing UI, system engineering, and even iPhone app development. 

For a consumer internet company, the UI is a critical element of the business.  The UI requires specialized skills combining technical and artistic talent.  Since the web is a living thing and consumers are fickle, the UI often requires constant care and feeding.  This is a role that is hazardous to farm out for many companies.  The same is true for Engineering Management and Senior System Architecture roles.  Unless the technology is trivial or the scale of the system isn’t significant, these roles can make or break the company.  Scaling issues, security vulnerability, and other technical issues can have a devastating impact on a young company.  Even a Sys Admin role can be critical to a company that operates a meaningful code base. 

If you are a consumer web company or an enterprise web company and you don’t think you’re competing with technology, don’t worry, you’re already dead. 

So, if you are a talented UI, Engineering Director, System Architect or Sys Admin congratulations, you are the belles of the ball.  The scores of little start-ups being seeded need you.  The big, “Monopoly-money” web companies want you.  The key for you is to pick the right ones.  It’s an opportunity cost issue.  One byproduct of the engineering talent shortage is the problem of a revolving door where people jump from one company to the other building a portfolio of vested stock.  This happened in spades back in the Internet Bubble era.  This is not necessarily a bad thing if people go to the companies that deserve them.  Luckily, all companies in the Spark Portfolio deserve the best people ;).  Feel free to check out the jobs boards on their web sites. 

So what is a company to do?  Make sure you’re surrounded by people that are first rate at recruiting talent.  There is always talent but remember that A’s attract A’s and B’s attract C’s.  Look off the beaten trail for people that don’t want to live in the Valley or the City (or Taxachusetts for that matter).  There are talent centers in the Beltway, Research Triangle, Austin and Great North West.  There are also pools of talent north of the border in Ottowa, Montreal and Vancouver. 

Having development centers in Tel Aviv, Shanghi and Oxford, England can work if you have the right people managing the projects (Spark companies have centers in these cities.)  The H1B Work Visa effort is also an important source of technical talent.  The flow has diminished as xenophobia went on the rise.  Alas, the US is falling behind in producing the quality and quantity of engineering talent required to keep the armies web companies humming.  The Government should do no harm.  If they want to do good then they should create incentives for kids to undertake and excel in technical educations and careers. 

Establishing a relationship with an outsourcer that goes beyond just work for hire can work i.e. performance-based compensation and a participation in the success of the project.  In some cases it makes sense to acquire your third party developer.  Groupon just did this with their CA-based iPhone developer.  This is happening a lot lately. 

Finding good talent will be a key differentiator for start-ups.  Of course not all these companies will survive.  Perhaps the growing shortage of talent is a good thing: a form of Darwinism to trim the herd when money is loose and barriers to entry are low.  If so, the rich will get richer, so to speak.  A lack of people to go around will drive up prices (salaries that is) and drive down the hiring barriers (companies will settle for what they can get).  To boot, outsourcers and contractors will see a boon in their businesses as companies try to rent vs. buy talent. 

If there were a stock market for engineering talent I’d be buying.  I might also be buying futures on UI developers and derivatives on System Architects and Sys Admins.  I wonder if Goldman is already doing it.  They seem to know how to make money during a blight. Maybe I’ll start a stock exchange for technical talent and call it the C++SE or the NERDAQ. 

iBox Fund

In anticipation of Apple’s new iBox product due out in 2011, we announcing a new, $100m Fund dedicated to investments in companies building Apps for the iBox. Below is a description of the product. We intend to begin evaluating companies immediately. If you are developing an iBox App, please forward a summary to Apps@iWantmyiBox.com. We were treated to a sneak peak of the iBox and were duly impressed (see enclosed photo). iBox Description: The iBox promises to revolutionize the Consumer Electronics Industry by offering, for the first time, a sleek, well designed container to carry all your Apple products. The iBox will transport and store your iPods, iPhones, MacBooks, iMacs, iPads, and Lisa products that you have accumulated. The iBox will not support non-Apple products such as MP3 players, Windows devices and Smart Phones. Initially, the iBox will not support WiFi or Cellular service. However, a subsequent version is planned with built in camera, WiFi and 4G so you can access the iBox and its contents remotely. The iBox is expected to sell for $199 for the Standard White version and $299 for the Black U2 version. Apple Stores, Best Buy and the Container Store are expected to carry the product line when available.

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