The proliferation of venture capital funds has left many VCs wondering how to deliver unique value to their portfolio companies and how to scale that value to fit their portfolio strategy. I invited Ben Capell, partner at Peterson Ventures, to join us for a candid conversation.
After my business partner had a serious health scare 18 months ago, I started asking myself three questions every day. I've added a fourth during this pandemic.
I invited Evan Walden of Getro to share his thoughts on recruiting top talent in the current environment and the role VCs can play to help their portfolio companies address this ongoing issue.
My colleagues Sue Heilbronner and Leah Pearlman Iaunched their Marco Polo Channel, Inside Coaching, this week. Here’s why and how I’m making the channel a part of my weekly routine.
A few of our portfolio companies considered whether to reopen their previous round or open a new round with a higher valuation. If you are considering the same question, here are the thoughts I shared with one of those companies.
I thought I had overcome my fear of peer pressure when I was 16, but this coronavirus experience has proved me wrong. I broke my commitment to tell the truth at a time when candor could have been of service.
Over the past few months, I've seen an increasing number of pitches from startups tackling the world’s biggest environmental and social problems like climate change, gun violence, and the mental health crisis. I'm also finding that I’m becoming more determined to invest in world-changing startups.
Kim Smith, executive director of the League of Innovative Schools, shares her thought-provoking insights to help drive racial equality in our venture capital industry, and makes a powerful call for white co-conspirators who are ready, willing, and able to fight.
I am grateful for the clarity and inspiration this emotional time has afforded me. I am more driven to do work that matters than ever before. Because we still have a long road ahead, I'm going to take an emotional breather.
We sourced five startups from our Fund81 VC forum members to present for our June forum. Check out this episode to hear pitches from these incredibly tenacious entrepreneurs.
I have fielded several requests for introductions this week. I like to be helpful, but I also like to be respectful of my network’s time. I'd like to share a few tips for making double opt-in intros easy.
I’ve always thought of myself as someone who has a modern marriage. Three months into this COVID-19 situation, however, I'm starting to feel like I'm stuck in a 1950s sitcom.
In a conversation on my partners Sue and Leah’s Marco Polo Channel this week, I shared that my fear of how my participation may be received given my white privilege has historically kept me on the sidelines of the racial equality conversation. Guest coach Kimberly Smith gave me some great advice.
As a VC, I have the opportunity to build relationships with people who have tremendous resources. I often hesitate to ask my network to support philanthropic causes, because I want to respect our business relationship. After seeing the impact of COVID-19, however, I decided it was time to ask.
I post my most interesting weekly thoughts, coupled with the best of my listening and reading list, and occasional MergeLane portfolio news each Tuesday. Here’s the best of what I’ve read and listened to this week:
I invited Dick Rothkopf, co-founder of Learning Curve International, the manufacturer of the Thomas the Tank Engine toys, to share his thoughts on how to spot big thinkers and big ideas with the propensity to scale, and how to help entrepreneurs think bigger.
During this epidemic, I've been doing more reading, listening, and introspective thinking. In an effort to remember and share some of what I learned, I'm going to start posting my most interesting weekly thoughts + the best of my listening and reading list + occasional MergeLane portfolio news.
Two people I admire recently shared their silver lining in our global COVID-19 pandemic—an excuse to say no to the constant stream of requests for their time. I’ve made great strides in saying no with candor, but it left me wondering: Can I really stop using excuses for my nos?
Without that physical barrier between work and home, many entrepreneurs (including me) have a hard time shutting off. In this podcast episode, I share what I've learned through my experience working from home for the past 15 years.
I invited Seth Levine to join the show because we’ve had some nice conversations about the challenge we each have in managing our personal bandwidth. Since having these conversations, we’ve both managed to carve out more time through some creative outsourcing and delegating.
Dave Balter, CEO of MergeLane-backed Flipside Crypto, has built three previous startups in the midst of economic downturns. He believes recessions are the greatest time to launch into successful models. In this Fund81 podcast episode, Dave shares his thoughts on why these eras drive opportunity.
I’ve been working from home for the past 15 years. I have learned a lot about maximizing productivity, finding work/life harmony, managing home life, staying fit and maintaining a healthy marriage while working from home. I’ve shared some of these lessons learned in this Fund81 podcast episode.
As part of our survey to determine whether COVID-19 will slow VC investment, we asked venture capitalists to share their advice for entrepreneurs who are currently raising or plan to raise capital in the next six months. Here's advice from 21 of those VCs.
Since we are all wondering how COVID-19 will affect venture capital investment, I surveyed some of my Fund81 VC forum members to take quick pulse on their investment plans. Below is the data from the first 34 respondents.
I have battled anxiety for many years. In that journey, I've learned a lot about how to manage it and support others who battle anxiety as well. I thought it might be helpful to share my thoughts.
We’re considering a few different fund administration solutions. I have a lot of questions that other fund managers may have as well. I invited Tiffany Cholez from CFO Fund Services to answer some of these questions live.
We have talked about declaring investment themes since our launch six years ago. Today we settled on one "anti-theme": Founders who dislike authentic feedback.
In this latest Fund81 podcast episode, I share my 2020 plans for the Fund81 forum and podcast, and a few reflections from my short bout of holiday depression.
I’ve now read over a thousand startup investor updates. The most effective updates — the ones that immediately grab my attention and heighten my interest — have similar characteristics. My advice is below, along with a comprehensive template for startup investor updates.
At MergeLane, we’ve been thinking about how changing market conditions may affect our fund in the future. I know many of our listeners are asking themselves that question as well. Our guest, Liza Benson, thrived as a VC through both the dot-com crash in 2000 and the 2008 financial crisis.
Beezer Clarkson invests in early-stage venture funds at Sapphire Partners (the division within Sapphire Ventures that invests in venture funds). In this episode, Beezer shares her perspective on venture capital trends, VC firm differentiation, and nonobvious mistakes for VC fund managers to avoid.
As an entrepreneur and startup investor, I have had many moments of feeling like I am pushing water uphill with a rake. Sometimes, I have kept pushing and have succeeded out of sheer grit. Sometimes, it was time to admit defeat. Two years ago, I had one of those moments.
Elizabeth Yin, co-founder and general partner at the Hustle Fund, shared her thoughts on how to assess a startup’s ability to “hustle”. Her thoughts are applicable to venture capitalists, startups and anyone who wants to work with hustlers.
Nearly every email I receive starts with “Sorry for the delay.” Our always-on culture has set an unwritten expectation that an email should be responded to within 24 hours. To prevent the perpetuation of this cultural expectation, I would like to make my thoughts clear.
We asked our Fund81 forum for venture capitalists to nominate portfolio companies to participate in a startup showcase. We received over 50 nominations. Four of those startups are featured in this episode.
Jocelyn Goldfein from Zetta Venture Partners joined the Fund81 podcast to share her approach to investing in artificial intelligence (AI). With the cost of creating software continuing to decline, Zetta believes the companies of the future will need to build more than just great software to thrive.
I love being active, but I also have high professional aspirations. I’ve spent the last 16 years trying to find a productive balance between the two. In this episode, Nicole DeBoom, pro triathlete turned CEO of Skirt Sports, and I share our thoughts on how to fit fitness into a startup schedule.
Fundraising doesn’t come naturally to David Cohen, founder and co-CEO of Techstars, but he’s learned how to leverage his strengths and team to successfully raise the funds that power the Techstars network. In this episode, he shares his honest and authentic reflections from this experience.
So often I speak with entrepreneurs who have not spoken to anyone outside of their personal circles before spending countless hours on their business. This always catches my attention, because I was once this entrepreneur.
I practice the principles of Conscious Leadership, a methodology and toolkit that accelerates self-awareness. It’s being taught at companies like Yahoo, Goldman Sachs and Ebay and has forever changed every aspect of my life. I estimate that it has bought me about five hours of extra time each day.
In this Fund81 podcast episode, I invited Brad Feld, founding partner of Foundry Group, to share his thoughts on maintaining mental health in the fast-paced venture capital world and supporting portfolio companies, colleagues, friends and family wrestling with mental health issues.
SC Moatti joined the Fund81 podcast to talk about how to discover and vet products in venture capital. We talk about how VCs can spot indications of future product success, creative ways to look under the hood before investing, and the product-related questions most venture capitalists fail to ask.
Rapid-fire explanations without curiosity or engagement often feel like dressed-up defensiveness. I’m not terribly game to build a relationship with someone who feels defensive from the start.
In this Fund81 podcast episode, we talk about something that has made our team at MergeLane better investors - the Enneagram Personality Typing System. To talk about how the Enneagram can help other VCs, I invited Kaley Klemp to join the podcast.
We are big proponents of using the 15 Commitments in the work we do in Conscious Leadership. However, as an Enneagram Type 1 who is most happy at maximum productivity, I’ve always had a hard time buying into Commitment #9, the commitment to play and rest. Until yesterday….
I’ve made a decision to take a break from speaking engagements that focus topically on women, women in startups, investing in women, women as leaders, and the rest. This includes events that may not be topically focused on women but are part of something called a “women’s track.” Here's why.
I am extremely disciplined and focused. However, this can also be a detriment. Anything I perceive as a distraction from my to-do list feels stressful, and I have to constantly tell myself that off-the-to-do-list opportunities are often the best opportunities. I was recently reminded of that.
For the final episode of Fund81's first season, I interviewed Jaclyn Freeman Hester from Foundry Group. As someone relatively new to the industry, she has a fresh perspective on what's compelling to institutional investors and an incredible pulse on the landscape for emerging VC managers. Enjoy!
Could I be more effective if I simply surrendered to a schedule that felt natural to me? After some serious self-reflection and experimentation, I can unequivocally say YES.
I’m trying to focus my time on opportunities to operate in my zone of genius and a few select priority areas in line with my passions and in which I feel I can make the most impact, aka my true north. To help all of us stay the course, I thought it might be helpful to share those priorities.
Dave Balter, the CEO of one of our MergeLane portfolio companies, Flipside Crypto, shares his perspective on investing in the cryptocurrency space. Dave is obsessed with and extremely knowledgeable about cryptocurrency, and has an interesting perspective from both sides of the table.
It has been a great few weeks for the MergeLane fund. When people ask us what our criteria are for investments, we always talk about team as the distant number one priority. I wanted to share this recent, wonderful interchange with TomboyX after a great week for them:
How the media (and more) judges emotion in leadership differently between men and women, and the costs of those judgments.
Most venture capital funds target a minimum ownership percentage when making investments. In this Fund81 episode, Amish Jani, a founder and Managing Director of FirstMark Capital, shares his take on why ownership matters and how funds of different sizes and strategies determine ownership targets.
Venture capital funds are typically structured to have a 10-year lifespan, but venture-backed companies often take more than 10 years to achieve an exit and return capital to their investors. In this Fund81 podcast episode, we discuss solutions to this problem with our our guest, Roland Reynolds.
This year, I decided to do an experiment. To build our MergeLane investor and mentor network, I dedicated four months to exclusively focus on meetings that involved skiing.
Conscious Leadership has been a game-changer for our partnership and our investing. For this Fund81 podcast interview, I invited my business partner at the MergeLane venture fund for high-potential startups with at least one woman in leadership, Sue Heilbronner, to talk about Conscious Leadership.
Dennis Adsit of Adsum Insights guest blogs about turning your one-on-ones from pedestrian checklist run-throughs to opportunities for connection and growth.
Gaining an understanding of venture fund legal terms can be a bit like learning a foreign language. In this episode, my guest, Mark Weakley, helps us navigate some of the more complicated terms commonly seen in venture fund legal documents.
I cannot think of a commitment my mother has ever broken. The importance she places on her commitments is one of her best qualities. I am proud that I inherited this quality. However, my goal for 2018 is to actually allow myself to break a few commitments.
In this podcast, I spoke with Bill Maris, the founder of Google Ventures (GV) and Section 32, who happens to be an introvert. I am also an introvert and have been doing a lot of thinking about how my introversion plays into my life as a venture capitalist. We explore this topic in this episode.
Our co-founder Sue Heilbronner shared her thoughts on the best mentor/advisor question she’s ever been asked
Venture Capitalists are increasingly looking for ways to differentiate themselves and produce better returns. One popular path to this is specialization according to geography, industry sector, etc. Nick Moran, GP at New Stack Ventures and host of the Full Ratchet podcast, shares his insights.
As an early-stage startup investor, I like to use the first meeting to ask some fairly unconventional qualitative questions. Here are 18 of my favorites.
Venture fund legal terms can sound a bit like a foreign language to new venture capitalists and venture fund investors. In this Fund81 podcast episode, Liz Meade, a new angel investor considering venture fund investments, interviews me to decode some of the lingo in venture fund offering agreements.
I’m excited to announce the launch of my Fund81 podcast for VCs. Fund81 is a podcast for the next generation of venture capital. As a general partner of the MergeLane venture fund and your host at Fund81, I'll tackle specific questions commonly asked by venture fund managers.
Paying legal fees and organizing paperwork are not typically entrepreneurs’ favorite things to do. However, getting things in order now will help you avoid headaches in the future like tracking down a signature from an investor hiking in Peru with a 24-hour deadline for an acquisition offer...
Hear MergeLane’s Sue Heilbronner and Foundry Group’s Seth Levine in an open and intimate discussion of the sexual harassment news that emerged from Silicon Valley over the last two months. Seth has been an instrumental advisor and personal investor in MergeLane since day one. Foundry has made...
I have felt strangely turned off by the recent conversation about sexual harassment in venture capital, and I finally understand why. For me, the commentary over the last few weeks has been a painful reminder that I might be seen as the weaker species.
If you know me personally or through my blog or Facebook, you know that I grapple with how to balance my life with the number of requests I get for in-person meetings. I’ve written about this before, but it was time for a new plan. I’ve landed on a new approach. The issue is that there…
In our best efforts to guide youth to becoming meaningful leaders in their lives, we can employ many useful tools which bolster future opportunities. Empowerment, perseverance, confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit are important notions for all kids to have in their back pockets...
This post was originally published on Elephant Journal. I recently finished reading The Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton. In the book, Glennon talks about sexiness. She starts by talking about the conventional sexy that most of us can agree on (with some standard deviations). She goes on to...
It’s Week 8 in MergeLane’s 2017 accelerator, the third in a series that began in 2015. We do a mid-program in-person week, and so this week our cohort companies from around the US and Canada returned to Boulder to connect with mentors, investors, our team and each other. This is the homestretch...
At MergeLane, we (and most of the startup investors I know) subscribe to the philosophy that startup success is determined by team, team, team, market and idea, in that order. We look for incredibly tenacious founders with a track record of making the seemingly impossible possible, a deep passion...
It is that time again. The moment when we have the privilege of sharing our upcoming accelerator cohort with the world. We are happy to announce the third MergeLane Accelerator class that will begin on February 12th. We are thrilled to add these exemplary nine companies with at least one female...
Just like we believe that investing in women-led companies isn’t just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do, we believe that investing in girls is key to #ChangingTheRatio. According to the White House, “Ensuring that a nation’s girls are educated unlocks human potential...
It seems every day between Thanksgiving and the Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanza trifecta now has an alliterative theme, so as of now “Shop Women Leaders Wednesday” is a thing. I’ve looked high and low, I have scoured the landscape of possible gift recommendations...
Wendy Lea has had a lifetime of high-profile successes in building successful businesses. Leaving Get Satisfaction after years as CEO, Wendy was lured to Cincinnati to develop and grow an enduring business ecosystem that brings together startups, bigcos, government nonprofits, neighborhoods...
This is a guest post by Fran Dunaway, CEO of TomboyX, a graduate of the MergeLane 2015 Accelerator. TomboyX manufactures and sells clothing and accessories by and for “tomboys.” Over the last year we’ve learned we are more than just a great brand. Our MergeLane experience was a game changer.
This is a guest blog post by Allie Janoch, CEO of Mapistry, MergeLane Alumni 2015. Mapistry, a 2015 MergeLane alumni, is in the business of industrial stormwater. We’ve created an easy to use and affordable software to combat the challenges of stormwater regulations.
This is a guest post by Alex Niemczewski, CEO of BallotReady, a graduate of the 2016 MergeLane accelerator. BallotReady is an online non-partisan voter guide that helpers voters make informed decisions all the way down the ballot. If you live in Illinois, Colorado, California, New York, Ohio...
This is a guest post by Ann Stewart Zachwieja, COO of Globig. a MergeLane 2016 Accelerator participant. Those of you leading a startup will recognize the driving pace. There is no such thing as a 40-hour schedule or free weekends. You solve problems in your dreams, Slack ideas to your teammates...
I had the opportunity to meet the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last week. The experience made me realize that I’ve taken the opportunities paved by generations of women before me for granted. To Dr. Albright, the grandmother I never knew, and the women and supportive men...
Dear Mr. Trump, Thanks to the hard work of many before me, I, an entrepreneur born in the same year as your daughter Ivanka, have grown up believing I could do everything my brother could do. I’ve never really felt the weight of the glass ceiling. I co-founded MergeLane, an accelerator...
This post is the fifth in a series summarizing guidance for how to calculate key metrics for startups. This series focuses on the metrics that are the most critical for entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists. These critical Key Performance Indicators for startups...
Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) is perhaps the most-referenced startup metric, but MRR is only applicable to companies that provide services to their customers through an ongoing contractual relationship, e.g., SaaS businesses (For more on MRR, read my previous post: MRR – The Definition...
Churn Rate is a metric for measuring retention. It is commonly used for both employee and customer retention. In the context of startups, the term is most frequently used when discussing customer retention. As a customer retention metric, it is like MRR, in that it is only applicable to companies...
This episode of the Real Leaders podcast features Elizabeth Kraus and Sue Heilbronner, co-founders of MergeLane, the investment fund and accelerator targeting companies with at least one female in leadership. Here Elizabeth turns the tables on Real Leaders Host Sue by asking her about her goals...
This post, written by MergeLane co-founder Sue Heilbronner, first appeared at her site. This policy also applies to all MergeLane activities, including our November Women’s Leadership Camp. We wanted to be sure to share her thinking (our thinking) here as well. As of today, I’m formally enacting...
The amount of money a company raises to finance its operation is an important metric, but I’ve learned that entrepreneurs and investors often calculate this differently. We recently sent out our quarterly survey to the 25 investments we’ve made through the MergeLane accelerator and fund...