Articles these days are filled with talk of the upcoming winter, caution about start-up spending and tweetstorms advising us to worry. I respect the authors of these points of view, as vanity investing can be a trap in bull markets. It’s also highly valuable to advise entrepreneurs to ask themselves if they are being capital-efficient and if they are providing a product that is a must-have versus a nice-to-have.
However, I think history has shown us that there are reasons to be optimistic even in a slowdown, as great companies are often founded or thrive in tough times. Examples include:
- HP (founded in 1939), after the Great Depression and at the time of the Second World War;
- Amgen (1980), Microsoft (1981), Electronic Arts & Adobe (1982) founded right after the recession of the 80s;
- Cisco, (founded in 1984), but licensed the technology from Stanford & hired their first CEO after the stock market debacle of 1987;
- Google, (founded in 1998), whose 2004 IPO was the one bright spot after the Internet bust of 2000.
In late summer, Mayfield and CRV co-hosted a dinner for entrepreneurs at e-commerce 2.0 companies, including Brit& Co, Dolls Kill, Dropship, Indiegogo, Kiwi Crate, LeTote, Massdrop, Pebble, Peek, Poshmark, The Hunt, Tophatter, Touch of Modern, Trendalytics, Udemy and Urban Remedy. These executives discussed the factors making e-commerce cool again for investors and founders, focusing on how evolving technology and business platforms (primarily through mobile devices, and social media) are changing the rules for the 6 C’s: content, curation, customization, community, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding.
New conceptions of mobile and web-based commerce are pushing companies beyond the usual “treadmill of marketing spend versus inventory buildup versus thin margins” that has previously plagued startups engaged in the art of the consumer-facing sale. As mobile becomes more of a balm for e-commerce’s traditional woes, here are a few things that entrepreneurs should consider for their budding businesses. (more…)
As we enter the second half of 2014, it would be fair to say that big data has gone mainstream, attracting coffee table books, multiple industry landscapes, consumer applications, and large amounts of funding. Having seen many technology cycles during our 45 years in venture capital — including the birth of the PC era, the transition to client-server computing and then web-based computing, and the emergence of the cloud and SaaS models — we have pattern recognition on what it takes for a company to go from startup to leader.
Here are some observations we’ve made about what it would take to build a lasting big data company:
1. Transition from a platform to an ecosystem
One of the clearest ways to see whether a technology platform is taking hold is to look at how fast the ecosystem is growing around it. For example, in the SaaS era, Salesforce rapidly became a giant because of its expansive ecosystem. Big data will be no different.
One thriving big data company that is transitioning from platform to ecosystem is MapR. It is the only distribution for Hadoop that combines the benefits of open source (community innovation, portability and flexibility) with unique architectural enhancements that provide enterprise-grade dependability, security, and performance.
The MapR ecosystem embraces both the flourishing Hadoop open source community as well a rapidly expanding portfolio of partner solutions in the MapR App Gallery. This enables enterprise customers to easily expand and implement their big data initiatives with ready-made, big data utilities and applications.
Another example is MongoDB, an open-source and leading NoSQL database used by companies for a wide variety of applications. MongoDB is building a significant ecosystem of partners across industries. (more…)
New companies are going around the traditional “front door” of FDA approval, insurers and healthcare institutions by launching ‘Healthcare 2.0’ companies that target consumers and self-insured employers, upending the health sector through the use of innovative digital and social technologies.
At a recent forum we hosted for founders and leading industry execs playing in Healthcare 2.0, we compared notes and debated which startup business models and go-to-market-strategies have the best shot at permanently disrupting the healthcare business.
This next generation of healthcare startup is first and foremost adopting a business to consumer model that can lead to business-to-business monetization. Successful companies are also combining premium services with extreme convenience, engaging social networks and communities, and experimenting with information coming from the proliferation of wearable devices that are beginning to penetrate consumer markets. (more…)
No, this is not another pessimistic rant about the lack of women in the tech industry, especially in leadership roles.
I am an optimist, and, as a partner to several marketing technology and SaaS companies, I would like to draw attention to an observation staring us all in the face. There are thousands of women in marketing roles at both technology and non-technology companies.
The most interesting element is that this role has become a technology-driven one with a crucial objective of driving revenue and customer intimacy. Many of these women are poised to excel in a new role that will be a major stakeholder in the C-suite of every company — the chief marketing technology officer, or CMTO.
While female CTOs are still a rarity, women CMOs are not. On one analyst’s recent list of top-10 CMOs in Silicon Valley, six were women. While I have become accustomed to seeing the revolution in marketing and the role women have been playing, I was struck by just how many marketing executives are women. While attending the Marketo customer summit last month, Hillary Clinton spoke about the importance of women attaining leadership roles in technology to an audience of 6,000, of which about 70% were women.
Women have long held key roles in marketing at tech companies, but executives in other departments such as engineering, sales, and business development have often received more recognition. That’s because marketing has traditionally been seen as a “cost center” instead of a “revenue generator.” CEOs worry that they are wasting money on marketing because they have had little idea if it was working to move the needle in terms of revenue. The infamous John Wanamaker quote “Half my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half” still keeps many CEOs up at night. As a result, marketing was largely kept out of the C-suite at tech companies because it wasn’t viewed as mission critical. However, there is a big change afoot that is putting the spotlight on marketing’s true value. (more…)
Few sectors have received as much buzz as the wearables market. From fitness bands and anklet baby monitors, to smartwatches and Google Glass, wearables are fun, cool, and cutting-edge.
The rise of mobile broadband, commodity sensors, smartphone-based companion apps, virtualized manufacturing and supply chain, crowdfunding, and nimble design have converged to make wearables mainstream. With the category now validated as a strategic hotspot for all major corporations and platforms, investors are clamoring to fund wearable tech startups.
In 2013, investors poured $458 million into 49 wearable company deals, according to CB Insights. Year-over-year, deal activity in wearable startups rose 158 percent, while funding grew 80 percent. Companies like Thalmic Labs, InteraXon, Soundhawk, Misfit Wearables, Fitbit, Jawbone and Rest Devices have recently raised significant rounds. (more…)
Image Credit: Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock
As an investor in enterprise mobile startups, I meet with hundreds of entrepreneurs every year whose business plans include the “mobile” buzzword.
Many of them are app companies that target consumers or ad networks and platforms that help reach them.
While these are interesting and will certainly yield some unicorns, I think there are even bigger opportunities for startups that leverage mobile technology to solve the most pressing problems for enterprises.
Many organizations are unprepared for the mobile future. The vast majority of knowledge workers own smartphones, and they regularly use them to access apps like Evernote, Dropbox, and Box – whether their companies want them to or not. (more…)
When Ursheet Parikh sold his company StorSimple in 2012 to Microsoft, it was one of the largest deals in the cloud infrastructure sector to date. But that wasn’t the only thing unusual about it.
It was also a fairly large deal for which he played the banker and negotiated the deal. This is not unheard of, but it is an interesting example of how such a process can work in a startup acquisition. Before explaining why and how he handled the acquisition without a banker, it’s helpful to follow how the company developed.
Founded in 2009, StorSimple combined the functions of multiple storage systems — primary storage, backup, archival and disaster recovery — into a single storage appliance that integrated with cloud storage services from companies such as Amazon, Rackspace, Microsoft Azure and Google. Parikh, formerly at Cisco, had previous startup experience and started the company with Guru Pangal, formerly of Brocade. The two were a good match to work on StorSimple because Parikh had a strong track record in WAN acceleration and Pangal had expertise in storage.
Early on, the team focused heavily on testing the product with about 40 customers. Parikh believes that some enterprise-focused startups push products out too early. Instead he advises enterprise startups to make sure the product is right before opening it up to the public. “Don’t settle on the product too early. These products take time to bake. It can be a mistake to declare general availability too early – especially before the product market fit is validated.” (more…)
Most venture investors say they are hands-on, but now some are taking it a step further and calling themselves “artisanal” VCs. What does this term really mean? Is it just a pretentious moniker that fits into today’s world of “handcrafted” $5 coffee and $4 toast? Or is there actually a new movement happening in the venture community?
While the term “artisanal” may be a bit overhyped, I would argue there is a real change afoot in the early-stage venture industry. There is a curiosity on the part of some VCs to focus on being a part of fewer, higher-quality, handcrafted companies. Investors like myself are now applying the same type of “craftsman” passion and care to help nurture companies from their earliest stages. (more…)
In the era of mobile, social, and the sharing economy, we’re seeing the emergence of next-gen mobile-enabled marketplaces in every ecommerce category, from fashion (Poshmark), to health (Brighter and HealthTap), lodging (Airbnb and HotelTonight), transportation (Uber and Lyft), and real estate (Zillow).
However, we have noticed that several conventional wisdoms surrounding marketplaces are getting disrupted. It’s important to constantly question traditional assumptions whenever new platforms arise, as it’s these disruptions which incumbents often fail to adopt, leaving room for innovative startups to spring ahead in new land-grab opportunities.
Mayfield recently hosted a Mobile Marketplaces dinner with leading entrepreneurs, which yielded several insights.
Myth #1: Online marketplaces have no offline component
Many of the newer service marketplaces feel more like “movements” rather than “businesses,” and actually require very careful architecture of the end-to-end experience both online and offline, including areas such as culture and workflow.
“Mobile is a foundational part of the Airbnb experience. When you travel, you are constantly on the go, so being connected to your mobile device might be your only digital lens into the world,” says Shaun Modi, designer at Airbnb. “How do we design and build a world-class mobile experience that not only satisfies the needs of our users, but fuels growth and inspires more people to join the Airbnb global community? It all starts with culture.
“By focusing on designing our internal culture, it seamlessly translates to the experience we create, both online and offline. Everything from the layout of our office, design principles, team structures, and interview process definitively reflects who we are.”
Modi also says startups should invest internally to inspire employees to have empathy for each other and for their customers. (more…)