This post is one of many upcoming stories around raising a fund, managing venture capital and trends within asset management
Often I am asked what is hard about raising a fund, or congratulated for putting on such a big effort (my fund is $1BN) or given jest about always being on an airplane but what’s hard about raising a fund isn’t what I thought would be hard at all.
My situation is also a little bit different than the average “fund” in which I’m mostly referring to venture capital funds, as I am Fund-of-Funds. I am more upstream working with larger checks and larger investors. I also see it all: I see the dirty tricks, the lies managers tell themselves, the crafting of spreadsheets which mean nothing, and the back-channeling between fund managers to try and get an outcome they want. I see the sh*t talking to make one’s fund seem better and the flood of TV interviews while your startups are rotting and creating hype to get investors to put money in before the truth comes out. I also see (and know what it’s like) to be piled in bills, all credit cards maxed and yet still staying up until 2am to mentor your investments. See also Managing Venture Capital Relationships.
From the good, the bad, the ugly I have seen every corner of both venture capital and finance as a whole and from what I’ve experienced here are some of the (surprisingly) hardest parts of raising a fund:
Everyone Thinks They Can Bring Value to a Fund---Until They Can’t
Most ambitious persons attracted to working at a fund love having a VC vest, corporate credit card and being schmoozed by royal families and global banks. Who wouldn’t? No matter the role you are hiring for its incredibly hard to find the right people who can be trusted and the higher the person’s compensation package the longer the honeymoon period can drag on. I have not mastered this yet, however, I have noticed a trend:
My advice: since this is my first fund I don’t have repeatable data nonetheless I would say no matter how much you like a person (as a human) the fund’s performance and duty should always come first. If this person is not improving or helping the fund (even if they are not yet harming it) you have to let them go as fast as possible.
The Food—Either Always Hungry or At an Airport
As a professional executive I am not new to knowing that a business dinner is not actually “eating dinner” but when you start raising a fund it takes thing onto a whole other level because you are (a) always talking in person or on the phone (b) on an airplane (c) in a taxi (d) on a stage or in a meeting of some situation where its rude to eat even though you finally can eat (see “a”… not talking). My advice for this is simple—start pretending you’re an astronaut. I have mastered the art of packing my own snacks, taking snacks from airport lounges (thanks KLM!) and meticulously planning how to eat. I am the master of dried soups, nuts, and any form of protein allowed on an airplane. It’s important because much of the time you are simply doing un-natural things and your body and brain need calories! It’s impossible to be in back-to-back meetings only to realize the 37 minutes in the taxi to the airport is the only time you can actually touch your food. I could write a book on this topic alone but after going to sleep hungry in many hotel rooms over the last two years (especially in Europe where things tend to close or not deliver) here’s what I’ve learned:
All Potential Investments Lie
No matter where you are on the foodchain all potential investments are lying right now about progress (startups, VC funds etc). This one bothers me the most. I’ve seen VC funds tell others they are further along with my fund and diligence than they are, I’ve seen VC funds ignore me then email my board saying we owe them a bank wire (when they haven’t signed documents or are “missing” something vital and are doing such tasks try to wiggle around it). See also, Prepping for Technical Diligence. I’ve also seen VC funds say they passed on me as an investor when we passed on them. On one hand I respect the whole faking it until you make it, I get it, but the lying that goes around venture capital can be way too much and I often feel like an island of reality check, reflecting truths to any fund which crosses my seas. Lying is also prevalent in finance as an industry. This makes my job (and your job) hard to raise money when 20% of energy is going to be cleaning up or clarifying little lies and big lies and you will always be offset by some sort of drama at the absolute worst timing ever. My advice here on that topic
Timezones Are a Bitch
Perhaps it’s more challenging for my fund because we are fully global but when you are raising money you usually can’t choose where the investors are from and they usually have multiple homes or offices. Keeping traction is very important so often sleeping more than 6 hours or a flight or something else can throw you off an investors orbit. You don’t fully grasp the importance of timezones until you’ve lost a few deals or things keep going wrong and you can’t understand why—its timezones. Be mindful of the person you are trying to persuade or the critical members on the team and email them at a time friendly to them, not you
People Who Can’t Apologize Can’t Be Trusted
This goes for employees, consultants, investors, startups or anyone. I have seen enough to know that a person who cannot say they are sorry does not mechanically know how to take responsibility and someone who cannot take responsibility should never be in your ecosystem. This is hard to pick up while raising a fund because no one likes making mistakes so I try to see if a person ever takes responsibility, even in telling stories about past mistakes. If nothing is ever a person’s fault, run.
Lack of Confidants
When you are a startup founder you have lots of other startup founders to talk to even if their products are different. When you are a VC fund manager you have many other VC fund managers to talk to (although they gossip so the risk is high there). Yet when you are a fund-of-funds, or in a fundraise or have certain filings with the SEC etc… its TOUGH. You CAN’T talk to many people about your problems or vent easily as it could quickly be hyped and destroy your fund or even cause problems with regulations. This makes Advisors and Partners even more important although that takes time and trust to build up. There are also the nuances of how numbers are financially ran or how a fund is calculating its decisions and a lot of the most interesting things you want to discuss, you won’t have anyone to discuss it with! This is also hard too when 95% of your time is verbally or in another way communicating with investors, so in the 5% you do have for venting, your heart and brain have so much to say one on hand and on the other you won’t have the energy or person to say it to. On the flip side, some of my closest confidants were around for Day 1 are now on my Board of Directors…confidants are built in layers. Invest in this early on.
Being a Woman Makes It Harder
Being a woman and raising a fund is incredibly hard because its already hard and then you add all kinds of nuances like, investors pretending to be interested just to be around a pretty lady. Investors being concerned about pregnancies and when / if that might happen. Trying to actually plan one’s birth control around fundraising is impossible. Having routine sex during a fundraise is also impossible for either gender but harder as a women due to security reasons #Metoo. People won’t take you seriously. To this day, even with fund’s we HAVE invested in, many have to learn to not going running to my male advisors--that I am indeed calling the shots. The amount of discrimination and bullshit you encounter as a woman is off the charts and then you add periods, cramping, sitting on 12 hour flights wondering if you brought enough tampons? No thank you. The one thing I would have changed (if I could change it) would be raising money as a woman. I would be male just for fundraising in a heartbeat and I’ve even found sometimes bringing along a male to meetings helps. For how much harder it is as a woman I can’t say it’s fun still the one advantage is being constantly underestimated. This also means that while every amazing thing you do will be measured in half, it also means you can pull off pretty remarkable things while not a single man sees it coming. And perhaps I am a bit jaded on this topic as I’m a female General Partner who has survived raising money as a female founder, and serving as a female vice president and been through many of the stages of company growth, I can say a lot of my team that has been with us since the early times is female. I still have hope that eventually the world will be rebalanced gender wise and having the secret powers that come with femininity will prevail.
My fund has a different story of origin because we did six months of research first, worked with large banks to solve product-market-fit, designed what the fund-of-fund needed to be THEN fundraised so I’m not exactly sure when our fundraising started, however, all funds eventually have to fill gaps or their whole fund and this requires grit, meetings and a lot of flying around the world. In the end, its been the smallest things which were the most challenging and simple roadshow survival. In general avoid the freaks, bring snacks and keep it moving. See also You Will Get Tired of Seeing My Handwriting (founders tale).
Founder at heart I’ve spearheaded startups, consulted for VC funds and now the fearless leader of a global fund-of-funds investing into early stage venture capital funds. If you have an interesting VC fund or would like to know more send an email to ELLIE (at) CACHETTECAPITAL (dot) com.
Finally as the dust settles from my 5th or 20th cross country move (who’s counting anyway?! There was the original big apple move, then this time or that time… ) I’m able to come up for some air and reflect on all the things I’ve been working on. Its seems like whenever I have the time to write or update people I don’t have much to say and when I have lots to share there’s no time to actually do so.
What am I working on?
Short answer: freelance mobile app design
Long answer: building an empire
Dummies Book: A year and half after the contract was signed and after 6 months of working on the book full time, the relationship with Wiley (Dummies brand publisher) dissolved and my book will be coming out later his year. Self published and catered more specifically with what my readers want. If you would like to be added to the waitlist send me an email here and I will be sure to let you be the first to get one :-) I have not given up on this nor forgotten just keeping quiet until the new title is out.
Inc.com: my writings are still plugging along… soon my Inc.com article will be publishing on 7 Tips for Preparing to Raise Capital (will link to it when live)
Huffington Post Women in Business: My column at HuffPo is also going well, finally getting out of a backlog and pretty excited for the next article coming out on product development, mobile and a lady badass running her own development empire, Ana Hilinsky (will link to it when live)
Mobile Growth Fellowship: after almost a year working with the lovely folks at Mobile Growth Fellowship I am pleased to announce my formal role in spearheading events in NYC as well as serve as President of the new committee dedicated to women in mobile.
New York Fashion Technology Lab: While on the outsides a bit this year regarding the program at NYFT, I still keep an eye on the startups in the program as I have close relations with Nordstrom and Macys. Their Demo Day is coming up June 8th in NYC for anyone interested, shoot me a note :)
SummitSync: Just recently became more involved with the kids at SummitSync, a startup focusing on changing how people meet each other at professional events. Their mobile app is live which I HIGHLY encourage you to download. If you have features or ideas please forward them to me, feedback always helps. (Find the iOS app here, Android app here)
Golkonda: Another interesting “startup” I’ve come across is _Golkonda.com which is a new jewelry line coming out of Manhattan with a global story and beautiful brand. They have several interesting pieces coming out this summer, including one I helped envision that will be coming out in their first batch soon.
Sailing: last but not least, to answer a question I get a lot which is if I’m still sailing, I am just not as much since work is a little crazy at the moment, but we do have a sailing adventure with Oakcliff Sailing planned for the weekend of August 21-22, we call it #TeamKoala and have been doing this for several summers now. If you want to go let me know and I will see if there’s a spot on one of our boats (note: the wind and water is very mellow in Oyster Bay, great for beginners)
My Favorite Apps or Startups at the Moment:
Things I’m looking for:
Hope this format is helpful to folks. Let me know if you like / dislike information being distilled this way, curious to anyone’s thoughts.
E (dot) cachette (at) gmail (dot) com
Back in 2008 at the Jewish High Tech Community meet up at the Fenwick and West offices in Mountain View I sat in the back of a room, it was probably fall or autumn time. I had never been an entrepreneur up to that point, just always a technical or software project manager but if there was one thing I was good at it was calculating budgets and timing.
Romanian entrepreneur George Haber presented his startup to the group ( CrestaTech which has raised $20MM to date according to Crunchbase) and finished with the statement of, "We are raising XX in funding and launching DD-YY" and I thought to myself immediately-- wait a minute the math and launch date didn't line up. He wasn't actually able to launch by his launch date without raising money. In fact, he would barely be able to make it to launch. The project manager in me was so confused... "Why would anyone in their right mind be pushing a product they weren't prepared for or had the full budget allocated to execute?" It seemed insane, illogical. (Keep in mind around this time CrestaTech might have only raised, or publicly acknowledged raising $1MM...)
I raised my hand for the open Q and A session to ask George what-was-up with this.
"Mr. Haber, If your burn is x, and your launchdate is y, then you aren't launching on that date because the product will be ready, you are launching because that's exactly when you will run out of money."
George smiled, as if I had asked the most obvious question in the room that only I had been the last to figure out, "That's exactly right. We will launch then because we have to. That's life. That's why we do it."
He was smiling when he said it too, I couldn't believe it. Startup founders are insane I thought to myself.
On another note: a friend that was also there that night was David Ulevitch of OpenDNS. At the time OpenDNS had raised $2.5MM in a Series A. Just last week OpenDNS was sold to Cisco for $635MM, so congrats to David and team, amazing how much can be done in 5-7 years!
PS- What's up with this Founder Story?
Curious why I'm posting random stories? Its because I just finished a book and have time to download them. Have a question or something you want to talk about? Send me a note: e (dot) cachette (at) gmail (dot) com.
Terry L. Stogdell
(Born: June 18, 1964 -- passed: April, 14-2002)
While a youthful dad by any standards (just a bit over 20 years old when I was born), today my father would have been 51 years old. Which seems old, except it isn't.
For those of you that remembered him and know the legacies he's left behind that is quite impressive in his 37 years living on the planet he maximized each and every relationship and piece of love he came across...
There are loved ones in this lifetime and others who passed that appreciated all that he contributed to the HIV / AIDS communities as well as Hemophilia communities in Northern and Southern California.
Here's to keeping his honor, and mainly his spirit for healthy and vibrant communities. With any luck by fall 2015 semester there will be a "Terry L. Stogdell Scholarship" at Humboldt State University this fall and his legacy foundation, the Silverman-Stogdell Foundation is up and running providing resources to underprivileged kids looking to disrupt public health.
"May his Memory be for a Blessing" - Jewish Proverb
Feel free to leave a note or send me an email with your favorite memory.
The Difference Between a Copyright and a Trademark
Copyrights and trademarks are two forms of intellectual property rights. People often confuse the two, however significant differences exist that distinguish one from the other. Let’s take a look at these differences to help you better understand which, if either, is right for your invention design:
What is a Copyright?
A copyright refers specifically to works of authorship, such as songs, books, dramatic or musical plays, software, and photographs, and provides the creator with exclusive rights to the material. Whatever the material, tangible expression is required to get the work copyrighted.
To obtain a copyright, you must register with the United States Copyright Office. This is something you can do on your own or with the help of an intellectual property lawyer. If you decide to hire an attorney, you will likely be asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding your new invention. This provides the lawyer with a thorough understanding of your work.
Once all necessary information is collected, either by you or your attorney, you will file a copyright application with the copyright office. It generally takes six to nine months to receive your Certificate of Registration in the mail, however the copyright is effective immediately following acceptance.
After you receive your copyright, it is within your legal rights to reproduce, distribute, display and perform the work however you see fit. You may also create derivative works, or works based on your original creation. If a person or business unlawfully copies your work, you have the right to take legal action against the person/company in federal court.
What is a Trademark?
A trademark is defined as an “identifying mark that distinguishes particular goods and services.” It is a brand name. Considered necessary assets when forming a business, examples of trademarks include words, logos, symbols, phrases, names or a combination of these. And while a trademark is different from a copyright, the application process is similar. If working with an attorney, who will help manage your idea and the application process. You will again need to fill out a questionnaire, and the lawyer will perform a trademark search before finalizing the application.
The next step is filing your application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. How long it will take for your trademark to register depends on a number of factors, such as an application based on use in commerce or intent to use. The process can take up to several years.
Acquiring a trademark demonstrates public notice of ownership. It also establishes your legal rights and makes legal action possible should a person or company violate these rights.
(This is a guest post by Kevin Skaggs and Idea Design Studio)
After years of questions and partnerships I have compiled a full guide to explaining software agreements. In this book you can learn all the basics of POCs, LOIs, MVPs and what you need to know to build great products.
For more information go here or buy directly here. Topics included are: How to make a software agreement, How to Partner and make pilot programs, Enterprise engagements- acquisition or integrations.
Soon the kindle and amazon version will be ready.
Have more questions? Shoot me an email.
Everyone says I'm going to do it again, like an addict looking for the next high but I'm not so sure. Whenever I'm on an airplane now I don't think of the meetings I am going to, but how fast until I am back home. I wash my face daily and get more than six hours of sleep a night, I often go to bed by 10pm and wake up at the times that I used to go to sleep. I'm no longer a founder and as sad as it is, its refreshing to realize I escaped the entire experience alive. Becoming an unfounder wasn't an overnight experience, its probably the same way someone from an addiction must think about how long it has been since they were clean and while I don't know the exact day I stopped being a founder, I consider it to be November 5th, 2013, the day I was checked into a Manhattan ER and hooked up to a I.V of powerful antibiotics while a ConsumerBell attorney texted me in a flurry about a recent legal settlement and the entire room smelled like bleach from the saline and meds being pumped into my body. "I am done" I told myself and not in the frantic ways I had done before but in a calm, exhausted exhale. Besides I had signed an employment contract days earlier, this time I meant it.
So what I want to say in a non-whimsical way is that being an unfounder is quite the opposite of how it all started and way less romantic, but its nice when meeting other founders who need help and you can offer them advice and they explain, "No but really you don't know how it is" and you calmly sit there and think, "Yes, yes I do."
Turns out someone was listening when I wrote this post on How to Fight the SFMTA and Win. In fact a lot of people were listening: in the year since I first published this post I have been contacted or helped over 50 people with their similar issues with the SFMTA ticketing them for "evading fare." Stories ranged from elderly persons getting kicked off their bus on the way to the hospital because their transfer ticket was slightly ripped over the cutoff time to Clipper Card malfunctions.
Eventually the responses became overwhelming so I began to forward them to Vicky Nguyen of NBC Investigates and she took a look. As it turns out my situation was not only common but the city's data showed not only a huge surge in citations (and revenue) but also the lack of appeals and abnormal amount of successful overturns. This made me the less than 1% of people who fought bought and successfully won against the SFMTA.
For the original newspost go here or click on the images below. Be your own judge.
Software. Sailing. Writing Stuff.