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…)
The venture capital industry is getting rightsized, with less capital raised and deployed, smaller funds, fewer active venture capital firms, and more regulation. The exit climate has picked up, but is still not at the level required. And valuations are overall more rational, with some exceptions at the later stages or in consumer-facing momentum companies.
However, with the confluence of not one but four big market drivers (discussed below), and the rise of a new technology cycle, we think this is still a great time to be a venture capitalist or entrepreneur.
Recent VC industry data released by the NVCA confirmed the reality of a welcome flight to quality and rightsizing trend. Key findings include:
- In 2012, the VC industry raised $20 billion vs. the almost $100 billion in 2000;
- 92% of this capital went to existing managers (vs. first-time managers) and 48% went to 10 large firms;
- Overall, about 522 firms are estimated to be active, and some believe this number even lower closer to 100 defined as firms that have made at least 4 investments over the last year;
- The median fund size for 2012 was $150 million, and the overall deal pace has come down to slightly over 750 investments per quarter;
- Although some momentum companies are being bid up, valuations are trending lower overall according to Dow Jones Venture Source data. (more…)
In a world where, in the blink of an eye, anyone with a credit card can access what is essentially the largest computer in the world (in the form of AWS), today’s enterprise data centers are starting to look like mainframe systems of a bygone era: clunky, complex, inflexible, risky and expensive to develop and operate.
To keep up, enterprises have had two real choices: deploy their apps and services in third-party data centers, or implement private clouds. Public clouds, while attractive in their utility and cost, have not been a good option due to a lack of control and guaranteed service levels. But a third choice has emerged: the hybrid cloud. (more…)
With over one billion smartphones and over 120 million tablets in use today, the PC era has given way to the world of mobile. Consumers, developers and businesses are being presented with innovative products from disruptive entrepreneurs. At Mayfield Fund, we believe that a new world order is being formed, where many mobile-first companies will grow into industry giants. (more…)
There are over a billion smartphones being used around the world today, but most apps running on them are still quite dumb, in that they throw away a lot of valuable information that could be harnessed to serve users better and to provide a better overall experience.
Don’t believe us? Just look at the highly popular apps from Yelp and Amazon. Yelp’s app search ignores your implicit cuisine preferences, which it could easily extract from your prior queries and navigation. Yelp also overlooks contextual factors like weather and time of day, showing “Bars” and “Nightlife” prominently in its Nearby feature, even at seven in the morning!
Ditto for Amazon’s PriceCheck app, which seems to not only ignore your purchase history but also whether you’re searching for that toaster oven from your home or at your local Target. (more…)
I have been involved in the technology industry for 20 years as a serial entrepreneur, corporate executive and investor. There are some key rules of the road that have guided my journey and these are especially relevant in the current era when the social Web is dominant, mobile platforms are ubiquitous and consumers are demanding simplicity. As an entrepreneur, I believe that living by some core beliefs is key to leading teams and building companies that last. Here are a few of my fundamental beliefs, illustrated with examples from the entrepreneurs that we are working with.
The Customer is Queen:
Actively listening to your customers and rapidly iterating to reflect customer needs has never been so important. From a vendor of cloud-integrated storage appliances to a mobile fashion marketplace, Mayfield Fund entrepreneurs like Ursheet Parikh and Guru Pangal of StorSimple and Manish Chandra of Poshmark, who constantly listen, react and respond to customer feedback, are finding a quick path to customer engagement. (more…)
Move over Don Draper. The slick, martini-drinking, chain-smoking smooth talkers of Mad Men no longer rule Madison Avenue. It’s geeky quant jocks like Dr. Rajesh Koothrapalli from Big Bang Theory who rule in the world of advertising today.
Far from living by John Wanamaker’s maxim about not knowing which half of advertising spend works, the explosion of measurable real-time data has transformed the world of adtech (advertising technology) away from the traditional “ad” and much further towards the emerging “tech.” Here are some trends we are seeing:
Networks Shift to Platforms: Technology, data, and audience targeting have evolved the world of display advertising from basic ad networks to ad exchanges with real-time bidding in a marketplace. That requires demand-side platforms such as Turn on one side (for brand advertisers) and supply-side platforms like Rubicon Project on the other (for publishers). (Disclosure: Mayfield is an investor in Rubicon Project.) Humans are becoming less involved in decisions to buy and sell ad space, as those trades are made in milliseconds through a market that looks more and more like a Wall Street trading desk. The industry is shifting away from older ad network and agency business models, which investors tend to disdain because of inherent challenges with scalability and arbitrage. (more…)
My previous post on the API-ification of software focused on the ecosystem of infrastructure-level APIs. Today, I want to discuss companies providing APIs that operate at the business process or application layer, which brings a whole new level of productivity and revenue potential to businesses.
Amazon has clearly been leading the way in API-fication by providing a broad range of fundamental software services packaged as APIs. From the basic EC2 compute and S3 storage capabilities, they have expanded to now offer more than 30 services across infrastructure categories of compute, storage, networking, database, deployment/management and messaging. All of these components are incredibly valuable and important, but an application developer still has to construct higher level business processes from these fundamental building blocks. In addition, they have launched the AWS Marketplace, which is a catalog of hundreds of software packages that cover everything from application development to traditional business software. However, this marketplace has only taken the first step in making it easy to install and deploy software applications or stacks as machine images. They haven’t yet enabled third-party companies to provide application components packaged purely as APIs. (more…)
The U.S. e-commerce market is estimated at $200 billion and is still projected to account for only 9 percent of total retail by 2016 (source: Forrester Research Feb. 2012 U.S. Online Retail forecast). We believe there is ample room for growth, and much of it will come from marketplaces. The metaphor of online marketplaces, established by Amazon and eBay starting in 1995, has endured and is flourishing once again – but in a different way than in the past. From an investor point of view, four things have changed:
The Rise of Vertical: The e-commerce market is large enough to support vertical marketplaces that super-serve consumer needs and are defying the “winner take all” theory that eBay or Amazon will be the only game in town. These vertical marketplaces have tuned the user experience to very specific needs by vertical and are easier to achieve liquidity due to their focus. Examples include Homeaway (vacation rentals), Etsy (niche artisan goods), and OpenTable (restaurant reservations). (more…)