The Intersection Event 2013

Entrepreneurship panel @ The Intersection

Spent an inspiring day at The Intersection Event at Googleplex. Full agenda is here and my notes from the sessions below.

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Week 22: IRR, Fishbones, Term Sheets & Angels

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 2 (22), Winter quarter

Fishbone

I think we’re getting back in the rhythm here. Continuous flow of external guest speakers and occasional valuation models to be built are bringing more variety to just swallowing hundreds of pages of cases. I did drop my across-the-street strategy class to get back to 19 units and thanks to that even made it to a few BBLs and a GSB High Tech Club company visit to Box. There is a long weekend coming up. Life is good.

Covered in this issue:

  • Finance: NPV and IRR, including pitfalls
  • Entrepreneurial finance: unit economics in business models and real options
  • Angel & VC finance (and a E-Club BBL): life of an angel investor
  • Negotiating Term Sheets, especially on valuation
  • Marketing and Mastery of Communications: more stories, including analysing viral videos & TED talks
  • Guests: Sand Hill Angels, Tory Burch, Pattie Sellers, James Buckhouse, Gil Penchina, Jeff Erickson

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Week 21: Finance, Ventures, Stories and Space

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 1 (21), Winter quarter

The pace of the new year has been just mindblowing, and not just compared to the Christmas break down time but to almost any of the school weeks from previous quarters. I guess this is what happens when you can almost fully customize your class schedule. And you want to get out of GSB to “across the street” schools for a bit. And you get accepted to this year’s LOWKeynotes speaker series, with dozens of hours scheduled for prep-work and coaching before the big stage. And…

I’m saying “almost in control,” because I have had close to no time to spend with family, sleep over 6 hours or socialize these last five days. And I do intend to do those things this quarter too. Exhausted, happy, but realizing this kickoff pace will not be quite sustainable as is. Let’s see what next week brings with its reading volume and booting up several project groups.

Covered in this issue:

  • Finance basics: free cash flow, annuities, perpetuities & NPV calculations
  • Business planning: financial business modelling, life time value of customers, Dropbox freemium example
  • Venture Capital: industry history and sizing, how VCs think, how they move money and get paid
  • Marketing: stories, stories, stories – creating and delivering them (videos)
  • Strategy: Grabber-Holder model explaining disruptive tech innovation via ultimate nothingness from Taosim and Yin-Yang cycle
  • Space entrepreneurship: an inspiring event on synthetic life with the Student Space Flight club
  • Guest speakers throughout the week: Vinod KhoslaNancy DuarteCraig Hanson and John Cumbers

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Toolkit for Evaluating a New Venture

Several entrepreneurship-related classes at Stanford refer to a simple conceptual framework developed by Professor William A. Sahlman of Harvard for planning and evaluating new ventures. In short he proposed looking at People, Opportunity, Context and Deal of a venture and analysing how they Fit with each other in this particular combination at hand. You can read all about the model from his article, Thoughts on Business Plans (on Google Books) which in turn comes from an essay collection Sahlman edited in the 90s.

What inspired me in this material was a systematic use of simple, but carefully targeted questions. I decided to extract a condensed reference of them below – still mostly Sahlman with minor revisions, but I’ve added a few more, and would be happy to keep the list living if anyone proposes more useful questions from their arsenal in comments.

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Founders’ Dilemmas, Quantified

I picked up The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup by Noam Wasserman after he spoke about it in the ETL speaker series at Stanford back in November (see my study notes of that week here). With all the regular school reading in parallel it took me 2 months and 2 vacation trips to dig through the material, but coming out on the other side it is a highly recommended read for anyone in the tech startup scene. Doesn’t matter if you’re just contemplating bootstrapping your first company or want to take a step-back look at the impact your term sheet demands as an investor can have on entrepreneurs on the receiving end.

Basically, what Noam has done is to take a whole sequence of inevitable dilemmas every founder has no way of escaping while building their startup, gone back to about 3k companies and 10k people and surveyed the hell out of them to quantify both the triggers as well as the indirect results down the road after they have made their choices on these issues so often just considered a “gut feeling thing”. Should I found a company now? Should I do it alone, with friends or strangers? What happens to my likely CEO tenure time if I take external money? What kind of side effects can different outcomes of horse trading over boards seats practically have? What are the hidden costs (and benefits) of hiring youth over experience, and vice versa?

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Weeks 15-16: Conglomerates, Lemmings, Founders’ Dilemmas and Tax Lotteries

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 5-6 (15-16), Autumn quarter

This post consolidates my notes from two weeks instead of a normal one, yet will be a bit more concise than usual too, for a few reasons: I was down with flu for several days and had to miss a few classes and then the midterm exams in Financial Accounting and Organizational Behaviour changed the normal scheduling.

Also, the first session of the latest addition in our core timetable, STRAMGT 259: Generative Leadership by Dan Klein yesterday was too… experiential to take any notes, really. Basically, we did three hours of improv theatre. It was a lot of fun, but instead of getting into the theory here – get the book: Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Madson. And say “yes” more to whatever life throws at you, go with the flow and see what happens.

For additional entertainment, here is an experiment shared by my classmate Marc who is lucky to take a Behavioral & Experimental Economics class by freshly Nobel-prized Al Roth: primatologist Frans de Waal showing how even monkeys reject unequal pay (see especially from 2nd minute).

And now on to the regular programming. Covered in this issue:

  • Why people suck at predicting when they finish a task
  • How overdiversification, and especially uncontrolled aquisitions lead to dysfunctional conglomerates
  • Lemmings following lemmings, but not sheep
  • Predicting future divorces
  • Research from surveying 10,000 founders that quantifies the impact of common “gut decisions” like picking investors or sharing stock between co-founders
  • Guest speakers explaining how they’ve used creative incentive schemes to get more out of porn site classification crowdsourcing and VAT payments in China
  • The impact of investment lags on IP value creation in startups and established companies
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Week 14: Confucius, Shrek, Devil’s Advocates and the Board

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 4, Autumn quarter

Covered in this issue:

  • How Confucius helps the Chinese to consume free MP3s
  • How a CEO is stuck between the Board and his team in a complex matrix of conflicting loyalties
  • How a side-effect of managing a few trillion dollars in your funds is the need to do a lot of board voting for your shares
  • How high-profile VCs can keep your loans in the bank and close your hires
  • How startups should tell their story the way seen in Shrek
  • How to make the devil’s advocate a resident part of participatory decision making culture
  • How citizens should break the government monopoly of environmental and pollution mapping

And here on to the full notes: Read the rest of this entry »


Õlgmees-kullakaevajad ja Garage48

Lugesin Raivo Heina laialt levivat blogipostitust ja kuigi sellega on lihtne suures osas nõus olla, tuli paar põlvenõksatust siiski. Ja kuna diskussioon on nii feissbukiseinasid-pidi laiali, siis ei osanud nende seast enam valida ja positan hoopis siia. (Kõrvalpõikena: distributed conversations on jätkuvalt lahendamata probleem, startupihuvilised).

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Teema 2012: Töötajad omanikeks

Jätkuks eilsele postitusele, toon Teema 2012 ettepanekute paketist kommenteerimiseks ja aruteluks välja veel teise mulle südamelähedase mure: kuidas teha nii, et Eestis üha enam ajudega töötajatest ei oleks mitte pelgalt töövõtjad, vaid omanikena suuremad osalised iseenda loodud väärtuse jagamises.

Esimest korda kirjutasin töötajate optsioonide teemal aastal 2009 ja sellest ajast saadik on omajagu vett merre voolanud. Positiivne on see, et tänane tulumaksuseadus käsitleb optsioone ja maksustab neid ka pärast kolme aasta möödumist mõistlikult (ehk siis tulumaksuga tulu tekkimisel). Samas on esimese aasta praktikas juba koorunud välja rida küsitavaid (vt ka nt selleteemalist Facebooki-vestlust) ja kurbloolisi näiteid, mida seadusandja selgelt ei soovinud, kus võimalike pettuste piiramiseks ehitatud võrku kipuvad kinni jääma nii Eesti startupid kui siinsete rahvusvaheliste firmade töötajad.

Muutuv maailm eeldab iteratiivset lähenemist ja alltoodud tekst seletab veelkord konteksti ja juhib tähelepanu neile “järgmise ringi” parandustele, mida riik lähenemises ja seadustes võiks teha, et meil ikkagi oleks rohkem omanikest töötajaid. Peamine eeldus, konstruktiivne dialoog, on selleks olemas.
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A Year With Estelon

Pretty much exactly 12 months ago I made my first angel investment ever in a company that makes physical things. My entire entrepreneurial career and the businesses I’ve supported on the side have always evolved around outcome you can not really touch: would it be software or consulting and services.

On this backdrop, the magic of turning ideas into physical objects has a special appeal for me. Estelon‘s flagship speakers weigh 85kg a piece yet are delicate enough to ship with a pair of white gloves for handlers. Their distinct shape is driven as much from physics as from visual aesthetics. And when they actually perform their primary function of music delivery it is as close as it gets to engineering creating pure emotion. The kind which both justifies and makes you forget the fair value on the price tag at the same time.
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