IQBOXY is machine powered bookkeeping for your business

IQBOXY was started by 2 software engineers with a common pain point — outsourcing the health of our company’s bookkeeping to cheap labor was slow, led to more accounting errors and exposed personal financial information to preying eyes.

Along the way we were also inspired by John D. Rockefeller and his most sacred relic, Ledger A. He kept a detailed record of his receipts and expenditures so he could always know the health of his business and life.

“No less than his business life, Rockefeller’s private life was ruled by bookkeeping entries. Since he found numbers so clean and soothing in their simplicity, he applied the business principles…to his own personal economy. When he started working in September 1855, he paid a dime for a small red book, anointed Ledger A, in which he minutely recorded his receipts and expenditures. Many of his young contemporaries kept such record books but seldom with such exacting care. For the remainder of his life, Rockefeller treated Ledger A as his most sacred relic.”

~ (Chernow, Ron (2007–12–18). Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (Kindle Locations 1321–1325). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

It is 2017 and we believe that we needed to own the pulse of our business and that machines could do a far better job than a human behind a spreadsheet in the cloud.
Enter IQBOXY — machine powered end-to-end bookkeeping. With 0 (zero) human intervention.

IQBOXY Founders - Ernest Semerda and Dmitry Birulia
Ernest Semerda & Dmitry Birulia hacking at Y Combinator (W17 — https://www.iqboxy.com)

IQBOXY Lessons

Here are a few lessons from our journey building IQBOXY during the Y Combinator (YC) W17 — Winter program.

(A) How we figured out at IQBOXY how much to charge our customers

When we launched, customers questioned our FREE model.

“what’s the catch? why is it free?”.

So we said, “ok, how about we charge you”. And so we did and peace was restored in the kingdom. We used Stripe ❤️ to process all our subscriptions — honestly don’t waste your time with anything else. Stripe is so simple to setup and get going.

Lesson: some products customers expect to pay for. Especially when it deals with their financial records. So research your market and find a spot that’s competitive. Never get into a price war since the strongest financially always wins (MBA 101).

During the YC W17 program, Dalton Caldwell (a YC Partner) encouraged us to experiment with pricing. If you are a software engineer, you know this is fast to do — ahh the power of being able to hack something yourself really fast without the need for any fancy tools. Our KPI was revenue so we used Stripe to monitor the outcome of introducing randomly rotating pricing pages. You can also achieve this in JavaScript (the crude way) or do it on the server side using Python / Django templates. Then watch your Stripe subscriptions and compare to previous historical subscription data. The goal is to find a sweet spot where the change in pricing is positive or neutral.

Here is what we settled on (IQBOXY plans): https://www.iqboxy.com/business/#pricing

(B) What metrics are important to IQBOXY and why

Our KPI has always been MRR (Monthly Recurring Revenue). Apart from being at the root of business fundamentals it is also a good indicator whether your customers love your product.

It’s easy to give away product for free. Anyone can do this in today’s digital distribution market. It is a lot harder to sell. Turning a user into a paying customer requires hard work to perfect product market fit.

  • The product has to be of quality,
  • The product has to solve a pain point and
  • The product has to add enough value that your users love it.

Apart from being at the root of business fundamentals it is also a good indicator whether your customers love your product or simply using it as a temporary swap in for the more expensive one.

(C) How do you balance trying new customer acquisition strategies and doubling down on ones which are working?

book-tractionWe followed the actionable framework and advice of Gabriel Weinberg in his famous book “Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers”.

The book covers every possible marketing channel you can use to get traction, and shows you which channels will be your key to growth. You need to be organized and fastidious in measuring each channel. Then once you see 1 or 2 channels working, milk them.

Observe your Metrics

Finally, make it a ritual (a good habit) to review your business metrics daily. At first, most of it will be numbers and a bit chaotic. But over time your brain develops this beautiful connection and insights will appear.

Quick hack: To kick start this habit, create a new Chrome User called “Metrics”. Set Chrome to “Always open previous tabs” (located in Chrome > Settings). For each tab, open the sites you use to measure your business. For example:

Tab 1 — Stripe ❤️ dashboard to measure Revenue KPI,
Tab 2 — Google Adwords to measure your Campaign Strategy,
Tab 3 — Google Analytics to measure Web User Engagement or Blog performance,
Tab 4— Google Firebase to measure mobile User Engagement and catch errors,
Tab 5 — SensorTower to watch Customer Feedback and App performance,
and so on… you get the drift. Make this a habit! Otherwise you will never do this.

(D) Tips for driving mobile conversions

Today (2017) this is harder and slower than in 2012. But there are ways. And these methods require patience and persistence.

We started mobile first and did ASO (app store optimization) with the help of SensorTower. Initially it moved the needle slightly so but nothing like the early days of iTunes when the app market for keywords wasn’t so crowded.

Word of mouth ended up being the strongest driver for us. Our early users love the product and kept on spreading it to their friends and colleagues. A mobile bottom up approach is truly the most powerful form.

We ended up creating a communication strategy around this and would reach out to our users asking for reviews and comments on iTunes. Positive reviews & comments moved the needle the most on iTunes. This started to push our app position into a more visible spectrum. More downloads, more love, more ratings and more visibility — recursive circle.

~ Ernest & Dmitry
IQBOXY Cofounders
Y Combinator W17 cohort

Thanks to Alexander Strunkin (Deako YC W16), Urszula Semerda, Olia Birulia and Andrzej Bakonski for reading drafts of this.

This post was 1st published on March 20th on Medium under YC Stripe Publication: https://medium.com/yc-stripe/iqboxy-is-machine-powered-bookkeeping-for-your-business-f7c9af314866

Show up. Follow up. Close.

Steli Efti from Close.ioShow up, Follow up and then Close the deal. This is the core of what Steli Efti taught me during the Y Combinator (YC W17) program.

Steli Efti has changed my perspective on sales. He made me appreciate sales more than ever before. Thank you Steli.

Steli Efti is CEO and Co-Founder of Close.io, a public speaker on the art of sales and an alumni of Y Combinator. Steli helps thousands of startups succeed in scaling their sales efforts.

I must confess, before Steli my view of the sales process was clouded by years of bad experiences. One time in the past, I asked this so called sales expert for some tips on selling and he sent me a link to a James Altucher’s sales blog post. Don’t get me wrong, James Altucher is badass. But this was like asking a software engineer to tell you a bit about their art and they send you a link to Stack Overflow. Not cool.

Having experienced this contrast, both sides of the fence, I am now enlightened on sales! Sales, when done right shouldn’t feel like dealing with a used car salesman. Instead it should feel like being with a Rockstar — inspirational and educational.

Show up. Follow up. Close.

Early in a startup there are ONLY 3 ways to make a difference:

  • Design product,
  • Hack them (coding) and/or
  • Hustle them (sell)

Anything else is a waste. Ask yourself, what are you working on?

When selling, be friendly & strong

(a) You cannot be Unfriendly & Strong — you don’t want to kill people, you only destroy value by being this way.

(b) You cannot be Friendly & Weak — in human psychology, we unfortunately abuse friendly and weak people. I have seen this style all too common — it’s something about people living in a dream of goodness but fail to close a deal.

(c) You want to be Friendly & Strong — this style helps you close customers that want to buy your product. eg. Think of a good parent who loves their child setting ground rules. You need to tell your customers what to do. You are the expert, they will listen to you.

Don’t get emotionally involved

Emotions will fuck with you. It’s that endless loop inside your head of “what ifs”. Recursion at it’s best.

Learn to work with your emotions. Some people meditate and others go for walks in the park. Find something that helps you deal with your emotions.

If a prospect questions you, use the primary mode of communication to respond and then go into the pitch on how you can give them value with your product. But never get emotionally involved when resistance arises. And don’t forget your body language is 80% of the communication when meeting people face to face.

Consistency is what wins, not charisma

The foundation of winning is the 10% of showing up and 90% is following up and going for the close. If you don’t show up then there is little chance you will follow up and go for the close.

I have often seen inexperienced sales people sitting around at the desk checking email every 5 mins. This behavior became consistent and that’s all such people do most of their time. My gut feeling is they start to believe selling is answering emails vs closing deals.

I cannot emphasize this one more. Consistency is king!

Don’t confuse talking for selling & selling for talking

Selling is trying to move someone to a decision. We hate closing because this is the “moment of truth”.

We are afraid to do it because it’s easier to say “they loved it but need to think more”. Learn to ask early and ask often. Expect the no and embrace it. Don’t delay it.

Be upfront to see if they want to buy. If they are unsure, then explain “You seem like smart people and I don’t want to waste your time.” and come back to the question towards the end of your pitch.

Make sure you ask what it takes to close. If they say you don’t have X, Y and Z then say “if I get you X, Y and Z will you buy?”. Boom!

Fear, we are all afraid

Fear, the feeling of emotion, is the same feeling in everything, it’s just context.

The difference between a hero & a coward is they both feel fear, but the hero acts despite his fear.

We are all afraid.

On Procrastination

A feature of being human. When you don’t feel like doing something tell yourself

“shut up and do it anyways.” — you don’t have to feel like it. Get over yourself and do it.

“Emotional Alchemy” — learn to deal with them so they don’t stop you from doing amazing things.

Video of Steli teaching how to Show up, Follow up & then Close

Got any sales tips you want to share here? Write below!

~ Ernest

Thanks to Dmitry Birulia (IQBOXY — YC W17), Urszula Semerda, Andrzej Bakonski and Steli Efti for reading drafts of this.

Healthcare for Aliens & Startups Demystified (US Edition)

Healthcare in the US is complicated. The start of each annual calendar is that time of the year. When you get a chance to step outside into the mist and change or join a US health insurance plan. Or maybe you won’t.. in fear of the unknown. You heard all the tales of terror. But maybe this time it might be different. You plough through…

Health insurance optionsBack in 2009 we were acquired by a US based company. So off I went to Silicon Valley leaving Australia and it’s public healthcare behind. I still remember being presented with a bunch of paperwork outlining health plan options and I was like.. wtf is HMO? Or PPO or Kaiser? Network? There’s a network? Worse, what do all these pages of tabular data mean and how the **** do I compare it all? I was lost in the vastness of options and meaningless pool of words. Later when I became a cofounder of a health tech startup, as an employer, I needed to setup company healthcare for our company and its employees. Being partially prepared helped but I also experienced the other side of the coin.

Today, I feel like having seen both sides of the fence (employee and employer) I can share my experience and hopefully demystify a tad of the US healthcare for newbies.

Healthcare acronyms – what it all means

  • Network: hospitals are owned by a healthcare provider — e.g. PAMF, ECLG, UCSF (all based in SF/Silicon Valley) all are owned by Sutter Health Network. You can find this info on the Network’s website. This is Sutter: http://www.sutterhealth.org/about/affiliates/hospitals.html — pretty big reach. Another Network you may hear about is called Kaiser.
  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): Coverage limited to your selected Network.
  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): Like HMP but you have a choice to go outside of your network for an extra fee.
  • Insurer: Provider of healthcare plans for HMO, PPO et al, E.g. Blue Shield of California provides plans for Sutter Health Network. Website: https://www.blueshieldca.com/
  • Group plan: something your employer sets up with a selected Insurer (eg. Blue Shield of California or a Broken) to provide their employees discounted healthcare coverage options. More on that below.
  • Metal Categories: There are 4 categories of health insurance plans (insurance pays/you pay): Bronze (60/40), Silver (70/30), Gold (80/20), and Platinum (90/10).
  • Deductible: How much you pay before before your insurance company pays anything. ie. You must pay all the costs up to the deductible amount before this plan begins to pay for covered services you use.
  • Copayments and coinsurance: Payments you make each time you get a medical service after reaching your deductible.
  • Out-of-pocket maximum: Max out of pocket per year. After you reach it, the insurance company pays 100% for covered services.

The EMPLOYEE Hat

Good health and no plan for kids

If you have good health and no plan for kids all you need to care about is:

  • What network you want to be part of — typically one in your county (close by) eg. Sutter Health
  • How much “Choice” you want eg. HMO in a large network like Sutter is good enough unless your picky about your specialists. But then again your health is good and you have no plans for kids so why bother with PPO.
  • Office visits (copayments) — this is how much you will pay for doctor or specialist visits and
  • Deductible — the left over bit insurance didn’t cover — how much you want to pay for medication — $5-$25 is acceptable

Pending the size of your employer and if your in tech (Silicon Valley), they will have a bunch of Plans to choose from with different (low) monthly out of pocket. Some smaller companies might not be providing so much luxury and you will have to decide whether to pay extra for the next plan up.

My healthcare provider: PAMF - Palo Alto Medical Foundation (Sutter Network)
PAMF – Palo Alto Medical Foundation (Sutter Network)

Planning to have kids or have bad health

If your planning to have kids or have health issues then;

  • Consider PPO. So you have “Choice” of care.
  • A PPO plan has lower out of pocket expenses but costs more.
  • Everything mentioned above as HMO also applies here.

Having kids in Silicon Valley is EXPENSIVE

From midwives to duelers to hospitals to all the OB & genetic screening visits, it’s a lot. You want the freedom of choice without too much sacrifice. Hence the advice to go PPO. Expect your insurance company to pay ~$50K for 1 kid delivered at EL Camino Los Gatos Hospital to Stanford Hospital (Sutter network and popular Silicon Valley hospitals). Out of pocket ~$2K. Once you hit the out of pocket (OOP) maximum the Insurer will cover the rest. We hit it on each birth. After you hit the OOP everything is free.

Medical Bills are RIDICULOUSLY INCONSISTENT

Especially emergency visits. Be prepared. How ridiculous & inconsistent? I have no history of kidney stones but thanks to the popular replacement diet popular in Silicon Valley (no name mentioned) landed me in Emergency. Standard resolution CT scan got billed at emergency at 5am for $7K. Total Emergency bill was pushing $10K for 1hr stay. Google “CT Scan” and you’ll see that standard price is $2K for getting smacked with radiation. That inconsistent! Thanks to my amazing Insurer Blue Shield for covering the out of pocket.

My healthcare costs - note CT Scan price Inconsistency

The EMPLOYER Hat

Tech companies in Silicon Valley compete for talent using many forms of incentives which also includes healthcare benefits. However startups are at a disadvantage because a 2–5 wo/man shop cannot use Gusto, Zenefits et al Insurers, instead they need a broker to get a Group plan for 2+ employees with “decent benefits”. Look, the [faster] you grow your business the faster you can move to a plan that’s reasonably priced. Don’t fart around moving slow.

Comparing health insurance options for your company is a pain in the bum. It takes time. And provide shitty coverage for your future employees and don’t expect quality candidates. Information is freely available and employees do share with each other their benefits.

Next be aware of the Insurers coverage not just in your area but also further state wide to cover employees when they travel and need care outside state.

Group plan and group # is what you get from your broker once they have setup healthcare plans for your employees. Once that’s done, hook it into Gusto to make it easy for your employees to handle their health affairs. PAY ATTENTION! This is important. I’ve seen this before where sloppy setups create confusion and friction in the workforce. Automate your HR. Startups with 5+ employees can by pass the independent broker and use Gusto’s network of healthcare Providers.

Hospital Register - choose your pain

Other tidbits

Avoid Kaiser Network

In my time in Silicon Valley I never came across anyone in the tech community who chose Kaiser when they had other options. I’ve heard stories of being treated like a number. That speaks louder then my advise here.

Catch an Uber, not an Ambulance

Ambulances are expensive. A fully equipped ambulance is called ALS (Advanced Life System) and costs ~$3K or the basic model BLS (Basic Life System) ~1.5K. If you can walk catch an Uber or a police car take you for free to emergency. The ambulance can stitch you up at the point of accident, thank them and Uber in.

Hospitals will always give you care

Even when you don’t have insurance. So don’t believe the horror refusal of care stories online. There’s always a different side to every story. However the hospital may chase you for large bills after. So get your insurance sorted if your new to Silicon Valley / US.
Hope this shed some light and as an employee or startup founder you are hopefully empowered or more educated to make the right decisions around healthcare.

 

Feel free to contact me with further questions or leave your comments below.
~ Ernest

CodePath Bootcamp: Learn Android & iOS the Better way

CodePath Bootcamp rocks! I have been building products for the iOS platform since 2012. As the mobile market exploded, I started to feel like I was missing something. It took some time to shed the iOS ego and acknowledge that 85% of mobile users in the world are on Android. And this isn’t going to go away. And, pre to 2016, I knew little about servicing that massive market segment, Android. It was time to change that and skill up on Android mobile development.

So I began the search for a bootcamp that could instill me with new powers. In the past having completed various online courses through edX, Stanford University and Kauffman Fellows Academy this time I wanted to do something different and go offline. Unlike online self learning, it’s easy to fall off the wagon. I didn’t want to give myself the luxury of falling off the wagon. Among the noise of the internet I finally saw the light.

Enter CodePath

Enter CodePath

CodePath is a 8 week bootcamp program ran both online and offline. Classes are ran by experts in their respective fields — CodePath cofounder Nathan for Android and his cofounder Tim for iOS. Alumni also play a role contributing to weekly classes online and offline. It’s a nice tight network of professionals advancing education in hot fields like mobile development & design.

There is an extensive and up to the date online resource of information for Android and iOS (links below). Unlike books or most online resources that can go out of date fast. CodePath’s online resources are always up to date since they also form the backbone of the offline classes.

Classes are Free. Seats are Limited. But, don’t be fooled, this is premium education. Apart from applying to get in, successful candidates get phone screened and then have to prove their commitment with pre-work (coding project). I love this approach. It keeps the bar high!

Facebook CodePath Cohort
CodePath iOS 2016 Alumni at Facebook HQ

Sponsored by Silicon Valley’s Tech Giants

Each class is sponsored by a tech giant in Silicon Valley. Hello to other tech companies 👋 — pay attention.

When I attended the Android bootcamp class it was sponsored & hosted by Uber at Uber HQ. Then later when I attended the iOS Swift bootcamp, Facebook was sponsoring it and hosted us inside their garden-roofed fantasyland (love that place!). AirBnB also participated in sponsorship in SF.

Tech Giants sponsorship provides insight into the vibe and energy of these companies and ability to speak to the folks that work there. Side note; if you want a job there this is a more qualified with less hoops method of applying.

More companies should be doing this. If anything it demonstrates a level of commitment to STEM education in Silicon Valley. This is why every tech company should be sponsoring such educational programs. Furthermore, what a brilliant way to enrich your existing and future staff with modern education that allows them to hit the ground running.

I know Mobijutsu

Matrix Neo Ninjutsu

If you seen The Matrix you may recall Neo being uploaded with Ninjutsu code and having his mind blow with this new knowledge. This is how I felt at CodePath.

You know you have to get your s**t together in the 1st week of CodePath when you hear about the structure of the program and attendance requirements.

The best way to summarize this is it feels exactly like when you get a trainer at the gym for the first time, get pushed and you then realize stuff you never knew you were capable of. You move to a new bar! In the first 4 weeks you will have built 4 apps and mastered mobile development.

Life after CodePath

Nearing the end of the 8 week program I got a sense of accomplishment and some sadness that the end was near. I met new friends, worked with amazing people and pushed myself to new limits.. and I survived.

Knowledge is Power. With Knowledge you can Create. In Silicon Valley this is what creates value. An ability to bring something to life just from an idea is uplifting. It is an ability to Execute.

I now know Android and have few Android apps under my belt. I also understand the ecosystem and understand the lifecycle of building on the platforms of the future, mobile.

Mobile is the future (we all know this) and this future is 1/4 owned by iOS and 3/4 Android.

iOS vs Android

Nature gives and also takes based on utility. To maintain momentum and this new knowledge, one needs a good plan to keep on executing. I plan to put it to good use through; (1) giving back to the CodePath community and (2) by applying my mobile skills to the road ahead in 2017.

Thank you Nathan and Tim for your education, persistence and my flood of never ending questions.

~ Ernest

Links


Ernest is an Aussie Software Engineer based in Silicon Valley. When not doing a baby freeze then you’ll find him floating in an isolation tank.

Follow Ernest on Twitter => https://twitter.com/ernestsemerda

Y Combinator’s Startup School 2016 — the recap, highlights & lessons

Another amazing Startup School 2016! Each year Y Combinator has something fresh to deliver at Startup School. This year was without exception. Apart from a stellar lineup of speakers (founders and investors) there was something new — a Founder-VC pitch role play (more on that below). I still remember my first Startup School in 2010 hearing Brian Chesky (AirBnB founder — pictured left) speak with so much energy and excitement on stage. Heck, I was so inspired that I went to the 10 man office in SF the following day to see them. Next day Office visits no longer happen but you can still get inspired by attending Startup School.

Ernest Semerda with Brian Chesky circa 2010 — Founder of Airbnb @ AirBnB headquarters in SF
Ernest Semerda with Brian Chesky circa 2010 — Founder of Airbnb @ AirBnB headquarters in SF

Each year Startup School reminds me about the fundamentals of starting and running a business;

(a) build something people need,

(b) execution is king and

(c) move fast.

Without further ado, here are my 2016 Startup School highlights.

2016 highlights

(1) Gobble — killer charts & “very crowded market”

These 2 pictures below should motivate you. This is what 6 years from an “overcrowded market” to killing it looks like. Well done Gobble for staying around and showing the disbelievers that you can do it.

“Gobble helps busy professionals easily cook dinner in just 10 minutes with 1 pan. The company designs gourmet dinner kits and completes all the sourcing and prepwork — washing, chopping, marinating, and sauce-making — so all one has to do is combine the ingredients together in one pan and be a dinner hero.”

Founders never forget. Note the “very crowded market” excuse.
Founders never forget. Note the “very crowded market” excuse.

Next time you are told this lame excuse of an “overcrowded market” or “no market” don’t be put down. Think AirBnB, Uber, Gobble et al.. and thank the investor for their time. Move on. And prove them wrong.

(2) — Rigetti and their Quantum Computer

Rigetti and Quantum Computing
Rigetti and Quantum Computing

I don’t remember last time I was this excited to hear about Quantum Computing.

This IS the next major evolution in computing. It’s that extra layer of precision that’ll open up new opportunities like seconds did for the clock to crystals for GPS and parallel for processing.

And maybe, just maybe we might be able to solve “Health” after all —from efficient drug discovery by mapping out all molecular combinations quickly to identify the ones that would most likely work to simulations. I’d love to see health go open source and have every software engineer contribute (as a way of giving back to society) to solving health related issues. Maybe this is where Mark & Priscilla Zuckerberg $3B effort to rid the world of major diseases be focused on — a contrarian approach to health efforts?.. maybe this is what we need since existing efforts are slow and buried in red tape.

Sam, congrats on convincing Rigetti to join YC. I want them to succeed!

(3) The Art of Pitching with Sam Altman and Paul Buchheit

This is the Founder-VC role play I mentioned above. I was super impressed with Sam being able to soak in the founder’s pitch and then within seconds craft a kickass (alternate) version. Brilliant way to educate everyone listening on the art of pitching.

Here are the videos — Note: Sam is role playing the founder role and Paul the VC role.

3 Takeaways:

  1. Articulate clearly what your business does, what market its addressing and why it matters,
  2. Explain the Fundamentals of what Drives your business and
  3. Don’t leave a meeting without some kind of a follow up (tip: don’t ask for a cheque).

(4) Marc Andreessen live and uncut!

marc-andreessen

Marc is always amazing to listen to. He commands so much power and energy in the room because his f**kin awesome! YouTube his name to hear many many recordings of his talks.

Marc stressed that to get yourself in front of the partners at a16z you need to pass “a bunch of tests”.

1st test — network your way into a venture firm. It tests your ability to hustle. It also paints a picture of your ability to hire. Someone that cannot hustle will find it a challenge to bring in top hires.

2nd test — formal presentation — “can you execute a formal speech” — this gets tested once you get yourself infront of the partners. Marc says this should be easier to do than infront of your customers since they are a lot tougher when it comes to selling by being a “default no”.

What I’d love to see in the future Startup School

  • Mobile focus — it’s no suprise the super computer in everyone’s pocket is changing how we interact and engage with “always on services”. I’m yet to see a startup that has truly revolutinalized a service on the mobile. For example; I’d love to see the spreadsheet evolved into mobile form where the shell looks nothing like a spreadsheet in a smaller mobile window. I don’t mean a dashboard of numbers but an actual pleasurable experience end-to-end that works as well offline as online and is supported by intelligence to automate the meh pieces of my workflow. This could really be applied to any industry. There are ample opportunities and those that experience the pain and understand the technology will be leading it.
  • And more from The Art of Pitching!

Have I missed anything?

How was your 2016 YC Startup School experience?

PS. This article also appeared at https://medium.com/the-road-to-silicon-valley/ycombinators-startup-school-2016-the-recap-highlights-lessons-7222ed84218a#.gn23gyc8z

~ Ernest

Altered States: Just add water. And a lot of salt.

If you solve problems using code you understand the storm that is within. It’s Tron meets The Matrix. Everything in your head is fighting for resources, algorithms crunching numbers, pointers going astray in your stack and the garbage collector nowhere in sight to clean the mess up!

Monkey Brain

There are solutions to this madness. The process is called calming your monkey brain typically through Meditation. But Meditation isn’t for everyone. Many have tried and failed because let’s face it, the classic method of Meditation sucks. It is a pain in the back side to sit there for an extended period of time trying to cut out all the distractions of the growing pain in your back to the ~70db pollution hitting your auditory sensors. Why do we still encourage meditation the old school way when there are far easier and more effective methods to calm the monkey mind?

John C. Lilly

In 1950s we knew little about sensory isolation. Many great minds speculated that insanity would follow any attempts to turn off our core senses — visual, auditory and kinesthetic. All with the exception of 1 badass scientist, John C Lilly. He proposed that if one could isolate the mind from external stimuli one could experience heightened sensory perception. He devised the first isolation tank, a dark soundproof tank of warm salt water in which subjects could float for long periods in sensory isolation. He proved his hypothesis right. And the rest is history. Google John C. Lilly to learn more about his work.

John C. Lilly built a modern day version of a meditation tank.

The Architecture of an actual Isolation Tank aka Floatation Tank
The Architecture of an actual Isolation Tank aka Floatation Tank

Today, such isolation tanks (aka floatation tanks) are found all around the world. From spa centers using it to relax the body to sport centers to expedite recovery (eg. Australian Institute of Sports) and to private use to explore the mind like John C. Lilly and myself do. Yet very few people know about it. So let me tell you more.

Where it all began for me

I have been “floating” starting in Australia since 2008 and later in the US. I was inspired by the 1st episode of Fringe. Dr Bishop used an Isolation Tank (also known as sensory deprivation tank) to connect Olivia and Agent Scott’s mind to tap into the dead agent’s mind to retrieve information related to the case. Low level protocol stuff. Yeah pretty insane utility but what if. So I took the red pill and went down the rabbit hole.

You may hear the word “floating” being used. This reference is more rosey but means the same thing; isolation tank experience. You float inside the isolation tank like a cork on water due to the high concentrate of epsom salt. If you have been to the Dead Sea you will know what I mean. A secondary benefit of the salt is muscle relaxation. Epsom salt has been used for centuries for muscle aches.

The Apollo ELV Float Tank — #1 Floatation Tank
The Apollo ELV Float Tank — #1 Floatation Tank

As you can see from the pictures, the cause creates an effect ~20mins into the journey you will feel like a brain floating in space. Disconnected from your auditory, visual and kinesthetic senses. This heightens the mind’s processing ability so you can begin exploring your private sea, your mind, in a conscious state.

At the end of a 1 hour floatation session you will feel like your body and your mind got a massage.

The Theta State

The goal with both meditation and floatation is to reach the theta state. This is a state where you can consciously listen to your subconscious mind. Or let’s put it a different way, experience hallucinations without drugs, insanity or sleep. Monks train years to do this through meditation while staying consciously awake. Your body does this naturally every night but you consciously switch off aka fall asleep. Recall those auditory or visual flashes you get before your off switch kicks in and you fall asleep? That’s a glimpse into theta state. In an isolation tank you are consciously awake observing your subconscious mind. Most of the time. No years of training required. For me it turned out after 3 floatation sessions I was hallucinating baby!

Supercomputer

Our subconscious mind is a powerful supercomputer (no surprises there) which constantly gathers, calculates, builds patterns & connections faster than we can consciously observe (process). I think this is a natural safe measure so we don’t go insane. Now imagine being able to tap into this wealth of stored info for a bit. You know when you sometimes get a gut feeling — I believe that is the output from all the processing bubbling their way to your conscious mind. I use the isolation tank to tap into this and get my answers faster then waiting for them to bubble to the top.

Why isn’t this a Company benefit yet?

Floating should be a company benefit. Heck, even more.. a company policy. If an employee is having a hard day for whatever reason (personal or business) just send them to an isolation tank for 1 hour.

That’s empathy right there;

  1. Identifying your employee is experiencing some distress and
  2. Do something about it that will have a far reaching impact on their emotional state than a 1:1 talk or sending them home.

We are human creatures with emotions. Fact. Ignoring this fact in my opinion is narcissism. If you have empathy do something constructive and help your colleague.

Finished a big project? Scrap the default lunch mode celebrations — take the team to a Zen center and have them all float. Afterwards you can all reflect on the achievement while sipping camellia tea. Better?

Run an experiment

There are float centers up and down the Bay Area and all around the world. Google it. Run an experiment with your team or yourself floating at least 5 times — 1 every week. That’s a tad over a month. Measure the experiment so you can quantify it and remove any cognitive bias. Then reflect on your calmness, clear head, relaxed nature and more empathy. Let me know what you find. There’s nothing more powerful than experiencing the power of this amazing mind and body hack for yourself.

Float already!

Few final snippets before I wrap this up.

Be vigilant about the tank

The Tank you choose needs a good ventilation system. High temperatures will race your heart just like a steam room does. It will become extremely unpleasant. I had it happen to me. Reached 144bpm and it was the worst experience ever. The Apollo ELV Float Tank is the best tank I have ever experienced. It is the Tesla of Tanks!

If its important, don’t sleep on it

Float. You will get more insights.

Tired?

Float. The Epsom salt does wonders to your skin and muscles. Afterwards, you will feel super relaxed. And if you fall asleep from exhaustion inside the tank you will be fine floating like a cort. Should you tip over, the high concentrate of salt will burn a hole in your head *j/k*. It will sting tho.

At a minimum, start with 3 float sessions

It will take some time for you to learn how to fully let go and relax your body while suspended like a cork. Only then will the mind let go.

Installing a tank at your company?

If you were inspired by what you learnt here and decided to install a tank at your company then please invite me over for a float session. Or if you need help or have questions please reach out.

More juice on Isolation Tanks & Sensory Deprivation

Happy Floating!

PS. This article also appears on https://medium.com/the-road-to-silicon-valley/a-better-way-to-meditate-in-a-sensory-deprivation-tank-6b61d360f5d0#.1ppvk69af

~ Ernest

Progress === Happiness – Thank You Tony Robbins!

Tony Robbins is a legend. No I’m not a newbie to Tony Robbins. This is not my first time I’m hearing Tony talk. But few days ago I watched Tony Robbins — I Am Not Your Guru on Netflix and managed to shed few tears. The content was refreshing and it resonated with me. I think it will with you too. It’s too good to hold back. Watch it now before Netflix removes it from their catalog. You won’t regret it.

Who is Tony Robbins

Also known as Anthony Robbins, Tony is a life coach who inspires people to wake up and change their lives. Tony is also known for his self-help books Unlimited Power, Unleash the Power Within and Awaken the Giant Within and stage events that span 4 days of 12 hours each day where you get to walk on fire, hug with strangers and cry. A lot. Tony is truly amazing.

A Date With Destiny

The show “I Am Not Your Guru” is a — 1st time ever — recording of Tony’s annual event called “Date With Destiny” held on an exclusive island in the Caribbean wth a small group of people and Tony’s entourage. I heard of Date With Destiny back in 2008 during Tony’s UPW (Unleash the Power Within) beginners seminar but that was it.

UPW — Unleash the Power Within

So back in 2008 I was given a free ticket to attend the 4 day UPW. I must confess, if it wasn’t for the free ticket I would have never gone. UPW turned out to be my pivotal moment. It changed me — fast! Apart from walking on fire spectacle, Tony showed us how to free ourselves from the constraints of our mind and unleash the power within. This made a huge impact on my life resulting in my big move from Sydney (Australia) to Silicon Valley in 2009.

UPW, Tony Robbins telling a story we can all relate to — how we are sometimes 2mm away from a breakthrough

So here I am in Mountain View, CA, and thanks to Netflix democratizing how we experience entertainment have now experienced the power that only Tony Robbins is capable of igniting. I don’t intent to summarize the show, you should just watch it. But what I intend on sharing with the golden nugget that struck a cord with me. Something that Tony said that really resonated with me and I am certain will resonate with you. It very well may be a great starting point when one feels lost and seeks direction.

Progress is Happiness

“If you are growing in anything you will feel better. Financially, Emotionally, Spiritually, Relationship, your Body etc. Your going to feel better in your body. Thats what we are made for. We are meant to grow so we can have something to give. You can’t give something you don’t have.”

and…

Life is Growth.

Tony Robbins then introduces what he coins as the “Primary Question”. This is a Question that’s unique to you. A question you need to ask yourself on what is driving your life at the moment. Tony explains..

Questions control what you focus on,

What you focus on is what you feel,

What you feel is your experience of life.

That moment when you realize something profound
That moment when you realize something profound

This was so profound for me that I felt like I finally started to understand my current situation. The pieces were making sense. My head was clearing. I found direction again.

The more I pondered about my Primary Question the more I could see this method apply to everyone. For example; this can apply to the way we experience the chaotic startup environment running or working for a startup, or how we deal with failure in any areas of our lives. We just need Progress to get out of the dark — finding progress is like that light in a dark tunnel. You should walk towards it to avoid being engulfed by the darkness.

Finally I will leave you with this quote from Tony..

“Stay in your head. Your dead.” ~ Tony Robbins

~ Ernest

Give $100 of value for $10 in return

So last week I was doing some streamlining with the number of stuff I carry on me. Call me picky but carrying a phone and a wallet 1.0 is a nuisance. It is one too many occupied memory registers that could be used for something better to worry about. So I decided out with the wallet and in with a ultra-slim self adhesive credit card wallet 2.0 for my iPhone. Garbage collection complete. Now whenever I get the urge to check if my credit cards are with me, I know by default that if my phone is with me my cards are too.

But what’s this got to do with giving $100 of value for $10 in return? Well it’s what I found during this cleanup process inside wallet 1.0 that I want to share with you. I found this note…

100-to-10-postit_s

“How can I give $100 value to 1m people and ask for $10 in return? Give value!”

The backstory

Circa 2008, I still remember when I 1st wrote this note on that yellow postit. I was a young snotty kid in search for “the secret to business success”. Ploughing through books, videos and seminars including the actual The Secret movie, I found zilch. Zero. Nada. Until I ran into a successful business owner who said to me “Find a way to give $100 of value for $10.”. I heard a pin drop (metaphorically speaking of course). Something so simple yet profound. It left an impact on me and thus had to be noted on paper so I could recall it every so often.

This is not a revolutionary idea nor is it a new one. But it helps me focus on what matters when it comes to making money through a vehicle like business or startup or whatever the fancy word will be tomorrow. The more this note soaked in, the more I realized we all have seen this in some other forms in the last few years during the startup gold rush.

Make something people want – YCombinator

If you are familiar with the good work of YCombinator then you already know of their motto “Make something people want”. You may also remember the famous advice by PG (Paul Graham, YC Founder) to AirBnBs founders; PG told Brian Chesky to go and speak with their NYC customers to find out exactly what their needs were and then deliver it. i.e. “Make something people want”. It’s not revolutionary. But it serves as a reminder to us, to be laser focused on the customer, execute and create magic.

10:1 (value to investment) Ratio

What I love about the 100:1 or 10:1 (value to investment) ratio is it helps you build a cash cow business. Building a profitable business gives jobs, changes lives and usually has a social impact. If you can give a 10:1 ratio of value:investment to your customers then; (a) you won’t have to compete on margins with the “me too startups” and/or (b) get into price wars with other companies/startups. You may recall from school business 101; price wars end with the one with the deepest pockets. From a customer point of view, getting a 10x in value is an opportunity cost worth putting money on.

“Rule #1: Build Proprietary Technology That Is 10x Better” – Peter Thiel

This is #1 Rule from Peter Thiel’s famous book, Zero to One, around business philosophy on creating a successful company. It is a great way to think about how your business creates value. If your not shooting for the stars then what’s the point. Now notice how the 10:1 rule fits into Thiel’s 10x better thinking. Of course it’s not easy to achieve those sort of ratios but when you do you know you are onto something special.

Venture Capital

The Startup gold rush has given anyone with an idea a reason to start a business. Venture Capital is often used as a means to fuel rockets (performing startups). We all believe our ideas are rockets. However the only rockets are those that have a competitive advantage like; (a) unique distribution, (b) talent and/or (c) 10x/10:1 customer value ratio. VCs love these because a VC firm is for profit; check out how VC funds work for an overview of the Venture Capital world. What I’m saying is that if you start a business with the 10:1 ratio you will have market elasticity in your favor and metaphorically speaking VCs knocking down your doors.

“Fortuna audaces iuvat”

Fortuna audaces iuvat
Fortuna audaces iuvat

So let’s wrap this up…
It feels like if you put in the hard work and create a product that gives $100 of value for $10 (or somewhere abouts there) then..

  • Customers will love you,
  • Investors will love you,
  • Market will love you,
  • Employees will love you,
  • And the media + the startup community will love you.. and maybe dissect you (in a good way of course).

What’s not to love about solving a hard problem?

Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

~ Ernest

Term Sheet Economics & Control: A Blueprint for your future relationship with your Investor

Before I was blind and now I can see. I finally got to read Brad Feld‘s book Venture Deals and now understand the ins and outs of a Term Sheet. I wish I read it earlier. This book is loaded with important content every founder who ever wants to raise money or has raised money should know. Venture Deals helps you understand the VC Game better. Life is a game. You either level up or get lost in its artifacts. Raising money is one of those big games that will affect you for years to come.

The content below is a breakdown of stuff I learnt about Term Sheets from the Venture Deals book with some of my own sprinkle of stories among it. You may also want to read about “The Players” to understand investors and their drivers.

We often hear the word “Term Sheet” being thrown around when raising money. So what is it and what do you need to understand about it?

A Term Sheet is a Blueprint for your future relationship with your investor.

When raising money the VC you are dealing with should only care about:

  1. Economics: This is the return at a time of liquidity + the terms that directly impact the return
  2. Control: Mechanisms that allow VC to exercise control over business / veto decisions.

Anything else Brad says, “they are blowing smoke”.

Term Sheet Economics and Control

If you see something missing then this is assumed to be less relevant in the grand scheme.

1. The ECONOMICS of a Term Sheet

Price

Price per share is the ultimate measure of what is being paid for the equity bought. This is sometimes called valuation and it comes in 2 forms:

  • Pre-money: value before investment and
  • Post-money: pre-money + investment.

Example: “I’ll invest $5m at $20m” – post money yields selling 25% of your company while pre-money is 20%.

Brad says, “Always clarify. I assume you mean $20m pre-money?”. The difference here is 5% of your company. That is nothing to sneeze at.

Dilution

Fully diluted / employee pool / option pool

  • The size of the pool eats into the company’s valuation. This is Trap #2.
    • “I’ll invest $5m at $20m pre-money with 10% option pool” gives you a $18m pre-money valuation.
    • Have an option budget listing hires until next round. This minimizes VC risk of future dilutions.

Warrants

This is the right to buy shares at a predefined price for X years. Warrants are commonly used during a bridge load to shame position until future investor comes in.

How VC’s value companies

It’s important to understand that valuing companies is hard. There is no exact science. A company is really worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. For example; VC (private investor) agrees to invest X at Y valuation or after an IPO the public investor wants to buy X shares in your company at value Y.

But how does a private investor (a VC) work out the value?

  • Early Stage (Seed): Experience of entrepreneurs amount of money being raised and perception of overall opportunities.
  • Mature (Series A+): Historical financial performance and future financial projections.

Supply vs DemandIf you want a great valuation think back to school when you learnt fundamental concepts of economics and tip the supply relationship in your favor.

  • Get several VCs interested in your financing (Demand vs Supply)
  • Experienced entrepreneurs == less risk == higher valuation. Also remember this when looking for a cofounder for your new venture.

Liquidation Preferences

This is a term used in venture capital contracts to specify which investors get paid first and how much they get paid in the event of a liquidation event such as the sale of the company. 2 parts to this:

  1. Actual preferences: money x times returned
  2. Participation
    • Full: Double dips. Means the investor will get their return outside everyone else (common) and then also participates in the options split (less common).
    • Capped: Cap when x times $ returned
    • No: No double dibs just return based on their company ownership.

IPO removes liquidity event since an IPO is a funding round and prefered stock counts to common stock.

In early stage of financing, its actually in the best interest of both the investor and the entrepreneur to have a simple liquidation preference and no participation.

Pay-to-Play

Investors must participate in future financing (paying) in order to not have their preferred stock converted to common stock (playing) in the company.

Vesting

Is the process by which an employee accrues non-forfeitable rights over employer-provided stock incentives or employer contributions made to the employee’s qualified retirement plan account or pension plan.

  • Typically stock and options will vest over 4 years with 1 year cliff (1 off 25% vesting at year 1).
  • Cliff encourages the individual to be with the company for at least 1 year to get their stock. After the 1 year stock then vests on a monthly basis.
  • Founders vest 1 year upfront at financial and then 36 month after. This 1 year upfront is to incentives them for their hard work pre-funding.

Employee Pool

Also known as option pool is a way of attracting talented employees to a startup company. It is reserved for future insurance to employees.

Anti-Dilution

A provision used to protect investors in the event a company issues equity at a lower valuation than in previous financing rounds.

You may hear Weighted average and Ratchet-based anti-dilution They are common in financial and focus on mining their impact and build value in your company.

2. The CONTROL of a Term Sheet

Board of Directors

The board is your inner sanctum, your strategic planning department, and your judge, jury and executioner all at once. Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) has a series of podcasts about the Board which I highly recommend.

Protective Provisions

These are veto rights that investors have on certain actions by the company. eg. sell the company, change board size, pay dividend, borrow money etc. These don’t eliminate ability to do them, but simply require consent of the investors.

Sometimes, a Drag-along Agreement may be present which gives the rights to a subset of investors to drag the rest of investors and founders to a specific action eg. sale of a company (fire sale).

Conversion

VCs (preferred shareholders) have the right at any time to convert their stake into common stock. Conversion is done if a sale deal is better for the investor. Once converted, they can’t go back.

TIP: Do not allow investors to negotiate different automatic conversion terms for different series of preferred stock. This can end up in IPO nightmare. Equalize the automatic conversion threshold among all series of stock at each financing.

And that concludes the Blueprint for your future relationship with your investors, the Term Sheet. So, when raising venture capital, make sure you are focused on:

  1. Economics: This is the return at a time of liquidity + the terms that directly impact the return
  2. Control: Mechanisms that allow VC to exercise control over business / veto decisions.

Anything else is just blowing smoke.

Feel free to leave comments below.

Credit goes to Brad Feld‘s book Venture Deals which helped shed insight into the VC landscape. This should be on every founder’s book shelf and a prerequisite reading material for all entrepreneurs wanting to raise capital.

~ Ernest

Raising Capital: The Players & How Funds Work

So you moved to Silicon Valley, ignited your awesome idea and are now looking to raise money. You heard that money grows on trees in Silicon Valley ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Money Tree

Before you jump in, learn the game. Learning the game will help you understand

a. Who the decision makers are and
b. What drives them

so that you can create good luck in your favor. And then maybe, maybe… it may feel like money grows on trees in Silicon Valley. The following is partially based on what I learned by reading Brad Feld‘s book Venture Deals. A book I highly encourage every founder read.

Life is a game. You either level up or get lost in artifacts. Raising money is a big game.

THE PLAYERS: VCs

A VC firm is made up of the following players. You ultimately want to get to the decision maker – the MD (Managing Director) or GP (General Partner).

Venture Deals - The Players - VCs

Some VC firms will also have Entrepreneur in Residence (EIRs). For example: Check out Social+Capital EIRs: http://www.socialcapital.com/team/ — these are experienced entrepreneurs parked at VC firm scouting a new opportunity for themselves via the VC firm’s portfolio companies. This is a smart means to move talent in the investment portfolio vs plucking people from the wider ecosystem.

VC Fund Structure

Let’s clear the air a bit first. VC firms are NOT a charity OR FREE MONEY. They are a for profit organization that must perform for their investors (known as the LP – Limited Partner). A poorly performing VC firm ceases to exist at year 10 (known as Zombie fund – see below).

The structure

VC Fund Structure

How venture capitalists make money

Since a VC firm is for profit it must make money for its investors. So from the diagram above you can see that there can be multiple funds. Each fund will charge:

Management Fees – 1.5-2.5% across each fund. eg. A $100m fund with 2% management fee yields $2m in management fees per year. This typically pays for company expenses and wages.

Venture Deals - The Players - Fees

Then after “commitment period” (roughly 5-year mark) the % (percentage) decreases. On average that may equate to 15% (15m) committed capital in fees for a $100m fund.

Management fees are independent of its investing success. This is why you may have heard that it takes 10 years to kill a VC firm.

 

 

Carry Interest – 20% and dwarfs management fees. This is the Profits a VC firm gets after returning the money back to the LPs. eg. $100m invested. 3 x return = $300m. 300m – 100m = $200m in profits. Therefore $200m x 0.8 = $160m goes to LPs and $40m to VCs. LPs will often ask the GP to invest into any fund they set up roughly 1-5% of their own capital. This is a demonstration of confidence.

Clawback: LPs can ask for any carry interest for a non-performing fund mid fund. So a VC has to find all the parties involved and recover the carry interest.

I hope you can see how money acts as leverage in this game. VCs cannot simply throw money around. Bad decisions can cost a VC future fundraising efforts. Therefore, as an entrepreneur show the VC how you will make them money!

How time impacts fund activity

There are 2 concepts that govern a VCs ability to invest:

1. Commitment period, also known as investment period.

    • New investments window in a new fund is 0-5 years. The fund might close earlier if all capital is deployed. After year 5, the fund might invest more only into existing investments from its Reserve (more on that below).
    • If a VC has only 1 fund after 5 years this is referred to as a Zombie VC. As an entrepreneur wanting to raise money always ask about fund age. If you identify a Zombie VC leave. Since they are no longer investing and are just fishing (wasting your time).

2. Investment term

    • This is the length of time that the fund can remain active. Average is 10 years.
    • Anything above 12 years, the LPs can vote to replace the GP managing the fund.
    • Poorly performing funds can be sold off to other VC firms to accelerate the fund returns. Sometimes a VC will push their portfolio companies for a liquidity event to return money to their LPs.

And you (the entrepreneur) thought you had pressure.

Reserves and cross-fund investing

This is the amount of capital that is allocated to each company that a VC invests in. For example; $1m Seed + reserve a theoretical future amount of the fund to invest in follow-on rounds. A Reserve creates 2-way dynamics: On one side it helps with follow on rounds and on the other the LPs wants their capital fully deployed.

Venture Deals - The Players - Reserve

A reserve helps avoid a cross-fund investing. Cross-fund investing allows the VC to use 2 different funds to invest in the 1 company. These type of deals are rare since they lead to pricing issues between the funds and how returns are treated.

If Reserve is underestimated, VC will pick favorite companies to move $$$ into.

This is why it’s pivotal to keep your investors updated through monthly investor updates on how their capital is being deployed. If you forget about them they will forget about you. Aim to BE THAT FAVORITE COMPANY! It will help you with future funding and establish you a solid reputation.

Monthly investor updates yield plenty of good karma

Value other people’s money. But since you gotten this far you must have some EQ. So try to automate the number gathering exercise vs spending hours counting the beans. Either way, investor updates should also be a part of your overall company communication strategy and not a burden. Here are a few templates to get your started:

THE PLAYERS: Angel Investors

These are high net worth folks who are mostly active in the 1st round of investing eg. pre/seed stage. They do not participate in future rounds. There are also Super angels, who are active investors often experienced entrepreneurs with a prior exit under their belt. Some may end up raising a smaller fund and be referred to as micro-VC.

An active angel (the lead) might also set up a syndicate. A syndicate is a collection of angel investors who want to participate in a funding of your company. AngelList is famous for not only housing a directory of startups but also allowing angels to create syndicates and thus service capital to startups where VCs might not. Check out AngelList: https://angel.co/syndicates

As of writing (Apr 2016), AngelList has:

  • $159M Invested in startups
  • 387 Startups funded
  • 178 Active syndicates and
  • 2,927 Active investors

THE PLAYERS: Lawyers

A Lawyer is someone that every startup needs. A great lawyer can keep you from falling into traps. Some lawyers will work with startups for free, deferring their fees until capital is raised.

There are plenty of freely available startup documents online that can help with any legal matters and provide clarity around the service you are getting. From
https://www.ycombinator.com/documents/ to https://www.orrick.com/practices/emerging-companies/startup-forms/Pages/default.aspx and https://www.clerky.com/

THE PLAYERS: Mentors

Mentors have a no fee agreement and help because someone helped them before.

Every accelerator in the country has mentors. Take a look at these top 3 accelerators and their line up of mentors:

One of the secondary benefits of joining an accelerator is you get to work with these mentors.

Another way to get advice that a mentor provides is by “Mass Mentoring”. Soaking up all the publicly available content from Quora, Hacker News, Medium, Reddit or Private blogs. This will give you a base and a sense of understanding that 1:1 mentorship cannot.

So that’s it. Hope this has shed some clarity over the players in the investment space in Silicon Valley. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments space below.

Credit goes to Brad Feld‘s book Venture Deals which helped shed insight into the VC landscape. This should be on every founder’s book shelf and a prerequisite reading material.

~ Ernest