Scott Sandell: Just to be clear, I have been fortunate enough to have invested in and been a part of a number of unicorn companies. Not all of them were bootstrapped companies. I don’t think of that as an essential ingredient at all. What’s interesting is to think about why bootstrapping is a valuable discipline and why some of the companies have chosen to bootstrap and what it did for them.
I think the first and most fundamental thing is that it establishes an entrepreneur’s commitment to what they’re doing. If you invest your own capital or you take a lower salary, you become much more committed to making that company successful than if you just start off by taking somebody else’s money which, to some people, seems like a casual activity. I don’t mean to make light >>>
Sramana Mitra: You also mentioned that even just in LA there are hundreds, if not thousands, of boutique agencies nowadays that are competing for the same dollars and are becoming much more open to experimenting and spreading the dollars across those different smaller agencies. How do you keep track? What’s your process of keeping an eye on who’s doing what and what’s interesting?
John Deschner: The awards shows used to be the best place. You went to Cannes and you saw the best in advertising and marketing in the world. If somebody made a dent there, you should probably keep an eye on him. That’s a less reliable way now >>>
Sramana Mitra: For those of you who don’t know the history of WebEx, the company went public and was eventually acquired by Cisco. It was a very successful story. It was one of the first two cloud companies in the history of the business. I want to get to Salesforce, but let me actually first get to Tableau because it’s a more contemporary company.
I’ve written about Tableau quite a lot recently. My understanding of Tableau was by the time they came to NEA for their funding, the company not only had customers and revenues, but it also had done an interesting OEM deal with Hyperion. Tell us a bit about what you saw in Tableau. It seems like an incredibly capital efficient company that generated immense return on investment. >>>
Sramana Mitra: Coming back to the micro, I want to probe two topics. One is your internal innovation strategy. The other is your external innovation strategy. Let’s start with internal strategy. I’ll explain to you what I’m looking to understand based on what you said so far. There’s all this stuff going on.
There are different platforms and ad units. Even within the platform, there are different types of ways you can engage with the audience. There is a tremendous opportunity for creativity and innovation using technology and designing interactive programs within your technology constrains. >>>
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Sramana Mitra: There is actually a pre-seed problem. There were 70,000 companies that received some sort of early-stage financing. In the last few years, these numbers have been very high but the number of companies that get venture financing remains at 1,200 or so.
In the middle where there are companies that have crossed over to being credible companies, that set of companies is actually much lower. A lot of companies are getting funding from, for a lack of better word, dumb investors who don’t know what they’re doing and just writing checks and creating a glut in the funnel. But it’s in the middle where you have good companies. >>>
There is currently a lot of capital in seed investing, with somewhere between 500 and 700 micro VCs extremely active in what we call the pre-Series A ecosystem. Some are really small funds of $10-$15 million dollar funds, some are $30-$50 million dollar funds, some are $70-$100 million dollar funds, and in some cases they do small Series A investing. This is quite a recent phenomena that has emerged over the past few years, perhaps even just within the past 18 months. Huge numbers of people have raised small funds. As a result, a lot of seed deals are getting funded. Recently, over the past month, I’ve spoken with the following group of seed investors about this trend, as well as the types of startups that seed investors are looking for. Have a listen to our conversations, shared below as 30-minute podcast interviews, to learn if seed investors might be interested in financing your startup.
Daniel Cohen, General Partner, Viola Ventures, discusses the Israeli startup market and his firm’s focus within that segment.
Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Scott Sandell was recorded in February 2015.
Scott Sandell, General Partner at NEA, is one of NEA’s star investors. He has been named to the Forbes Midas list every year since 2007, and has been involved with eight Unicorn companies including Salesforce.com, Workday, Webex, Tableau, and others. Scott discusses, specifically, Webex and Tableau in quite a bit of depth. In both companies, the scrappy, capital-efficient management of those businesses were striking!
Among Silicon Valley’s venture firms, NEA holds a special place in my own entrepreneurial journey, being the first VC firm that I >>>