2 posts categorized "startups"

May 10, 2012

What Tim Draper Looks For In A Startup

Tim Draper 43
Last week, I attended the startup conference in Mountain View, CA. 

It was the center of the startup universe.  There was even Startup Village, a trade show meets speed dating center, where CEOs or techies pitched their ideas and prototypes.  At the end of the row was the Draper Fisher Jurvetson booth, with Tim Draper taking pitches.  Seriously.  

During the general session, Draper talked for 20 minutes about his experiences as a venture capitalst and angel investor.  The burning question for him was this: "What does it take for DFJ to green light an investment in my startup? Revenue? Uniqueness? User engagement?"  He pointed out that winning startups worth investing in must possess three qualities: 

1.  It Is Revolutionary - Your idea will change an industry, and kick a dent in the universe. He liked Skype for how it transformed telco and loved Facebook early on because of how it would redefine neighborhood.  So, if you have an "improve" value proposition, that will not get his socks rolling up and down.  

2. It Solves A Big Problem - He points out that the greatest products are solutions to problems the founder(s) personally experienced.  Your startup must address a big problem, because it's the problem and not the existing players that define a potential market. (Now stop and think about that for a while...).  Tesla, he pointed out, raised a boatload of money because they went after one of the biggest problems in the world, energy shortages.  

HINT: If you want to go shopping for big problems, he pointed out, tune into the burning political issues.  They are usually the problems we care about, especially during an election year.  

3. There Are Healthy Zeros On The Balance Sheet - He talked about one of his most famous investments: Hotmail.  They have a healthy zero on their marketing column, because they used their product as marketing.  Remember, the hotmail email footer viral marketing phenom, where all the early users advertised "Get your free email at hotmail"?  He also liked how Amazon, early on, had zero dollars in inventory logistics costs...because their customers and partners carried all the freight.  

All of these cost-avoiding business model features are indicative of something truly revolutionary, he said in conclusion...bringing us full circle to his original point.  Big ideas kick a dent in an industry.

Does yours? You can email him at tim@dfj.com (PS - don't tell him I sent you, unless you are going to make him a great deal of money.) 

As an encore, he agreed to sing a song acapella for us: The Risk Master. I shot this jerky video, just to share here with you!


May 07, 2012

About my new venture: Net Minds

NetMinds-Logo_Echosign copy
It's time for me to spill the beans about a startup I've co-founded.  

The company is called Net Minds, and we are a networking service that partners authors with all the talents they need to produce great books that are effectively promoted.  We believe the future of publishing is in groups, think joint ventures.  

Currently, if you have an idea for a book, you either go the traditional route (sell the book to a corporate publisher) or self-publishing.  The former is harder than ever to achieve and the latter is ... the wild wild west.  We are in the middle: offering quality partners for quality ideas. 

Right now, to use Lean Startup speak, we are in "Minimum Viable Product" mode, producing books the net minds way using concierge services.  We've signed a handful of authors and built teams around them, mostly by dividing up the book's equity/royalties.  Such books include Nerve Breakers by uber-musician Mark Schulman and Finding The Next Steve Jobs by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. 

Between now and our public launch, we are focused on acquiring high-platform projects like the above and stocking our database with editors, designers, marketers and publicists that would like to work on Net Minds projects.  If you know of any, please send them to our Partner Signup Page or share this blog post via Twitter or Facebook (below). 

It's the first startup I've believed in enough to be a founder of, and I am very excited about the quality of our team and the dent we are going to kick in the publishing business.  Over the next few months, you'll see more blog posts about the Net Minds journey, covering new topics like Publishing or Startups.