With Scott Orn

A Startup Podcast by Kruze Consulting

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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

Steve Bennet on Angel Investing in Startups

Posted on: 11/07/2016

Steve Bennet

Steve Bennet

Angel Investor & Entrepreneurship Professor - Bodega Partners

Steve Bennet of Bodega Partners - Podcast Summary

Steve Bennet is an active Angel Investor, Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at San Jose State University, and consults as a Startup CFO. Steve talks walks us through what Angel Investors look for in an investment and tells some great stories about big wins (iControl)and near misses (Lyft). Steve is a great startup mentor and we’re so happy he came by.

Steve Bennet of Bodega Partners - Podcast Transcript

Scott: Alright. Welcome to Founders and Friends Podcast with Scott Orn, at Kruze Consulting. And, my very special guest is Steve Bennet. Steve, welcome.
Steve: Thank you. Great to be here.
Scott: Yeah. Steve is a renowned Angel Investor. He’s also a startup CFO. We’ve been friends for a long, long time. And, I want to have him on the podcast, because I get so many questions about, “What do Angel Investors look for? How do they operate? How do they write checks.” So, I figured I’d have Steve on, so he can answer all these questions.
Steve: Scott, great to be here. So, I guess one other thing that Scott didn’t mention on my bio, in addition to being an Angel Investor and part-time CFO, I’m also a professor. I teach entrepreneurship at San Jose State, and Scott’s been kind enough to join us, both in person and virtually, several times. So, when I wear my Angel Investor hat, and it’s often hard to differentiate, in terms of what I’m doing on any particular day. There’s no typical Angel Investor. I think, probably even less so than a typical VC. So, every Angel is looking for something a little bit different, and the whole Angel Investing market has changed quite a bit over the last 5, 10, 15 years. Personally, what I look for, is I’m looking for an entrepreneur that I believe has a great idea, and that’s not even necessarily the most important, but really passionate about what they’re doing. There’s some reason that’s driving them to do what they’re doing, and I think they’re not going to quit, that they’re there to win. That they can recruit a team around what they’re building, and that there is a viable business model that can be put together. So, those are at a high level, and then if we drilled down a little bit, since I’m an Angel Investor, and I’m not investing a lot of money, there may be investors down the road that need to come in whether they’re VC’s, whether they’re corporate investors. So, I want to make sure that there are two paths that the company can go on, that they’re not just structured that the only way they can succeed is to go out and raise a big venture round. Because, then I’m taking on a ton of financing risk, and likely not going to be rewarded for that. But, as long as there’s an option where they can build a company organically, or there may be a path to profitability or exit as one path, and then another path is raising a lot of money and scaling, but most companies don’t fit into that natural venture model.
Scott: Yeah. So, first of all, I can’t believe I forgot about the professor aspect. Your Twitter handle is ProfessorVC, which I love.
Steve: I think I titled my blog, which I didn’t start until 2008, at, and I just came up with it. The blog was available on blogger, the URL was available, and it kind of tied together what I teach, because I teach a lot of venture capital along with the entrepreneurship. I thought it would. And, I like long-form writing, this is actually the first podcast I’ve done. I do a lot of panels, both moderating and speaking. So, I do like to write and I think one of the first blog posts I wrote was one of these how it got away stories. And people love to talk about the investments that they missed out on. So, I had Jeff Fluhr, who was the founder of StubHub, came to talk at my entrepreneurial finance class, and he went through the whole story and how they ultimately sold to eBay for somewhere between three and four hundred million. And arguably, they may have even sold a little bit early, but I think, as he said that day, “Better to sell too early than too late.” So, I think I had four entrepreneurial lessons that were one of the four blog posts. I liked to write when I have the time, but that was a company that I had met, I think 2001, so Jeff and his co-founder were just finishing up their first year at Stanford business school. They had this idea for this software solution where they could sell tickets for teams, major leagues, so I think they were starting with major league baseball, maybe football, and it was a company called LiquidSeats. And, they were really deciding whether they were something here and they should go back for a second-year business school, or try and raise money. And I really liked what they were doing, because it’s not an easy thing to build, there were a lot of regulatory challenges, but they really seemed like guys that could do this. I was at a venture firm at the time, so I wasn’t actually doing a lot of Angel Investing on my own. I brought them, I think it was 2001, brought them to my firm, Outlook Ventures. My partners were kind of down on anything that touched a consumer at that point. So, it didn’t fly, I didn’t invest. Jeff ended up dropping out of Stanford, building the company. His co-founder went back for a second year of business school and then joined StubHub later. And, I’m sure that second year ended up being quite expensive, in terms of equity that may have not have been vesting or that he left on the table.
Scott: Have you ever met Jen Field from Tripping? Because she was an early employee at StubHub and I’ve heard the StubHub story from her. She helped run marketing early on.
Steve: I know Jenny Fielding whose at TechStarters now. You may have introduced me to her.
Scott: Oh yeah.
Steve: I think it was part of our e-Lab that we do, where the students all do an internship and a startup, that class. I think they did participate in the class.
Scott: But she talks about StubHub all the time, she learned the basics of how to get a marketplace going and now she’s doing attributing. But that could respawn a ton of other startups too.
Steve: Yeah. [crosstalk] I could tell you the life story, but then I’d probably just cry.
Scott: You told me that. Tell them the story, please.
Steve: Oh gosh, okay.
Scott: You had a great line when you finished that.
Steve: The other one that got away was a company called Zimride. Again, another example of a very young entrepreneur, was in Santa Barbara, just starting to build this company. And, it basically was just replacing the ride board on college campuses. So, for people as old as Scott and I, you’d remember going up to this bulletin board, there’d be staples, and staples, and staples on this board thing. Somebody would say, “Yeah, I’m going home to LA over Thanksgiving. I have three seats, rip off the little thing at the end of the flyer and give him a call.” So, there were some initiatives on campus, probably 10 years ago, saying, “Well, let’s replace this. We can do this better.” I think there were some incentives, for probably some green carpooling and others. So, it wasn’t just going home over break, but actually commuting on a daily basis. So, Logan had actually convinced, I think, 5 or 10 universities, at this point, to pay him $10,000 a year to put this ride board online. He was using Facebook, so you knew that you were getting a ride with a friend or a friend of a friend, or a friend of a friend of a friend. And he was in Santa Barbara and decided if he was going to build this, he was going to come to Silicon Valley. So, I forgot who introduced me originally, but I think I was the first person that he met with when he came up to the Valley. Some of the things that I liked about what he was doing. One, very passionate about the idea, but they had the beginnings of a business model clearly that wasn’t going to be the longterm business model, but it was a good place to start. He had some experience in the area. So, not only did he build this thing, so he could go see his girlfriend, who I think was in LA or San Diego. But, he also had experience on the Santa Barbara Transportation Board as a student and was doing things around transportation and busing. I think he had actually really come up with this idea when he was traveling through Zimbabwe. I don’t know what their startup myth is today, but I remember if you ask Logan at the time, it was from Zimbabwe. And then, he ultimately ended up partnering with a guy at Cornell who had a similar idea. And his name was John Zimmer. So, people think Zimride for Zimmer and Logan for Zimbabwe. I spent a bunch of time just really like them, informal advisor, didn’t ask for any equity. Generally, just liked to help people out, really liked them. They were moving around, little apartments and offices. [inaudible] When they got to the point, we kind of agreed that a little financing would be helpful. I pulled in another guy from my Angel group, Sand Hill Angels. We ended up putting together a term sheet for, again, at the time was Zimride. I think it was somewhere in million dollars pre-money valuation. I think we were going to put in $250,000 or $300,000. And wisely, I think Logan thought about it and we went back and forth a little bit. At the same time, he got a Facebook grant that I think also gave $100,000 or $200,000. Which was enough for what they really needed at the time? When they did raise their Angel round, I don’t know if I wasn’t around right then, or there were some people who came and had sharper elbows than me, but I didn’t end up investing in that round. They ended up rebranding and repositioning the company as Lyft. They sold off the Zimride piece and started only the companies going great guns, and Logan’s a great guy.
Scott: Yeah.
Steve: It’s kind of the Silicon Valley thing, that maybe I don’t end up financially winning on that one, but I think there were some cartwheel points.
Scott: [inaudible] when you told me that the first time. You were like, “I think I’d be on a beach right now if that deal would have closed.”
Steve: Potentially. I’m not that far from the beach.
Scott: So, those are awesome stories. You said a couple things when you were starting up. Looking for that passion for people to fight through. Those stories are all kind of, they didn’t have the answer right away. I think a lot of people look, when they think of Angel Investing, they have this expectation where the company has to have everything figured out. But, you and I know they’re usually figuring it out as they go, right?
Steve: They’re figuring out until the day the company either succeeds wildly, and kind of sells as integrated somewhere else, or fails miserably. Nobody ever knows all the answers. Startups are full of ambiguity, and that’s one thing that I tell my students all the time, that if “You’re not comfortable with ambiguity, you can’t deal with it, then don’t be an entrepreneur. You’ll just drive yourself crazy. You’ll bang your head into walls. You’re gonna wanna put everything into a box, and it just doesn’t work like that. Another example, where we’re sitting right here today, in the new company, where I just took CFO role, and you guys at Kruze are gonna come in and help us. Xenia Systems, the Sea of Xenia, [inaudible], I’ve worked with on two other companies. We’ve known each other now for over a dozen years. The first company that I worked with him on, iControl Networks was, as you were saying, he had been at Echelon, which was an industrial automation company, had gone public. And he had this idea for a consumer service that would be distributed through service providers, provide home automation, security, other, what we’re calling now, smart home, combined with IoT. He had pitched this wallet Echelon. So, I guess you would call that entrepreneurship, I don’t know if people use that term about being an entrepreneur within an enterprise, within a public company. I think it got to the point where Echelon wasn’t quite at a scale. They had just gone public, they couldn’t really experiment with something that was a little bit far off from what they were doing. So, Rez got the CO’s blessing to go off and start this new company, which became iControl Networks and put together a team of three, four, five people. I came in as an early investor and CFO. It took us a long time. We had a number of near-death experiences. I ended up being the CFO for the first four to five years of the company. Rez has stayed for about eight years. Brought in what they call a professional CEO. The company is just in the process of being acquired now. But, that’s a company, we put together the initial business plan where we thought we would need less than $10 million. And would be at a scale, by 2008 or 2009, probably where the company hit in 2015, or maybe this year. The interesting thing about that one is, we experimented in a number of ways, but the ultimate business model and selling through service providers was what we had anticipated at the beginning. It was just really hard and took a really long time. So, the product was branded ADT Pulse and Comcast Xfinity Security and Time Warner as a solution. That was actually an interesting one in that it took a very long time to develop. It became challenging, at a number of times, to raise capital. And, was much more capital intensive than we thought it was going to be. But, I’ve been with other companies where the business model definitely changes quite a bit.
Scott: On that one, that’s a really good story, because I actually looked at that one, we joke. I think I submitted three different term sheets to them when I was at Lighthouse. Every year it would be like iControl came back again. But, a lot of that was actually because you were working through Comcast and working through ADP. Having gone through that, you ultimately did get the distribution, which made that company super valuable. When you’re doing your Angel Investing, do you look for enterprise companies, do you look for consumer now? You’ve seen it both ways, do you have a preference?
Steve: So, from an investing standpoint, I look at both. I’d say, now probably doing a little more than having a hardware element traditionally was software, mobile, internet and would look at both enterprise and consumer. I think markets change, interests change among investors, but I’m really looking for that entrepreneur that I can believe can build a scalable business. So, if that’s in an enterprise space, great, I understand how the dynamics work there. If it’s a consumer, that’s going to be much, much more difficult to predict early on, whether a company going to be successful. So, I’ll make some bets there, but probably have more and quicker failures in the consumer space than the enterprise. But of course, if they’re successful, the win can be a lot bigger too. The whole, kind of software eating the world, Marc Andreessen. If you invest over a 20 year period in enterprise software, you’re gonna do pretty well.
Scott: Yeah, I totally agree.
Steve: So, I think a lot of people stick to, specifically, what they know. Whether that’s enterprise, whether that’s life sciences, whether that’s consumer, I like to dabble in and learn and meet a lot of different people as I go through the process.
Scott: It’s interesting you talk about looking for hardware companies too because traditionally that was something that Angel Investors, even VC’s, didn’t really like to invest in. However, we’re seeing a lot of our clients are actually hardware companies because it gives you a real barrier entry now. Combining hardware with software, the companies are usually doing both.
Steve: Yeah. I think the value, in most of these hardware plays, again as I control, is on the software side. The biggest challenge with hardware is it takes a lot longer and it’s much harder to iterate. So, if you’re looking at being a startup, running [inaudible], experimenting. Anytime you take a false step in a hardware business, it’s probably going to set you back more than if you did that in a software business.
Scott: Yeah.
Steve: But, I agree. I think there are many, many … We’re actually doing a case study, in my class tomorrow, on Bolt. Which is a hardware accelerator, and they work with some very interesting companies? Ben Einstein, who’s one of the principals there, has written some interesting blog posts to. I think one of them, I forgot exactly what its main thesis was, but basically said, “Stop saying hardware is hard.” Because, that’s the knee-jerk reaction, but it’s not. One, it’s probably not that hard. I mean, it is for me, I’m not an engineer.
Scott: Nor am I.
Steve: Neither are you. We just think everything’s easy. If we can think about it, you should be able to build it, right? Yeah, that’s why they hate us. I think, for Angel Investors looking to invest in hardware startups for entrepreneurs, as you said Scott, it certainly is a way to differentiate a little bit, and maybe get a little bit of lock-in with the product. It can be more fun for hiring designers and others to come out with a nice, cool product that you can touch and see. Maybe it’s a little bit easier to explain to your grandmother what you do.
Scott: That’s definitely true. When you’re investing in a startup, I always tell our companies to think in terms of milestones, kind of generally speaking, what milestones are you looking for the startup to hit on your money? Like the Angel Syndicates money.
Steve: I think it varies from company to company. The first thing, as you said Scott, you definitely want to have an idea of what milestone that you want to hit when you come in. So I’d say, 80% to 90% of the pitch decks I see that are coming to me with a proposal to invest, they’re the last slide says, “We’re raising $750,000.” Or, “We’re raising a million and a half, and this is what it’s going to get us.” Again, 90% of the time it says, “12 months runway. 18 months runway. 24 months runway.” That is the last thing that I want to see. So yes, I want to make sure that you’re going to have enough money to get out there and you’re not going to need to go out and raise money in six months. But, you don’t lead with that. You lead with, “Okay, we’re going to be able to build version one of the product. We’re going after big box retailers. We know we can get two pilots done in the six months. We’ve already got a pipeline of the back, so these are what our milestones are going to be.” Okay, so that’s where you’re going to be. In this case, you probably need to raise more capital. Let’s think, what you think you’re going to have in 9 to 12 months, is that going to be something that you can raise capital on? And if yes, great. Let’s put in a cushion, make sure that you have that 18 months runway. If no, well let’s rethink this because maybe there’s a different business angel that we can take, that’s going to require less capital or something that you can do on. And again, it’s not just my money. I’m a small investor, I invest personally. Maybe $10,000 to $50,000, and then collectively in a group, if I’m with my Angel group, we might invest 250. If I’m investing outside, with other Angels, again, it could be anywhere from 250k full round, up to a million to two million.
Scott: That’s really good advice. Look at the milestones, getting two pilots and actually proving out whatever you’re doing, and then adding some additional cushion to that. Because no one ever hits their milestones on time. Do you look at it from like … Because I coach them and say, “Look at it from a series A investor.” That person needs to take it to their partnership and want to invest five million or ten million dollars into that company. Or, are you seeing companies raise that second bite of the apple from Angel Investors?
Steve: It could be either. I think we’re certainly seeing a lot more now, where there’s a seed one, or seed two or seed prime, versus going straight to the series A. Sometimes, that’s a fallback position. Other times it’s, “This is what we could raise now. If we could have raised the full seed, great.” Maybe it’s half of those milestones, we were talking about before, which can get either current investors to put in a little bit more and bring in a few values added. It might be a micro fund, or what people are calling a few years ago, a super Angel. So, you might start with a little bit of a small Angel around, and then tack on. What I don’t really like is, I’ve seen entrepreneurs think that the financing strategy now because people have gotten comfortable with convertible debt. As we’ll just do convertible debt round now, we’ll do another one in a year, another one a year after that and a year after that. At some point, pretty quickly, you gotta think about how this is gonna work, what the cap tables gonna look like, and how you’re actually gonna convert this. And, if things don’t go well, you may not have some of those control provisions that you would have in a series A, but you’re basically in a position where you’re not going to be able to raise any money. Now, you have to look to try and sell. You always have to be thinking ahead, strategically, what your financing strategy is going to be, just as you’re thinking ahead about what your product strategy is and what your sale strategy is going to be. So, they all need to be tied together.
Scott: That’s good advice. You talked about, you invest out of Sand Hill Angels. Maybe talk a little about that group, and they aren’t you doing an AngelList syndicate? [crosstalk]
Steve: Well, that’s something that I’m in the process of learning about. AngelList, I think I was probably the first, maybe 20 or 50 Angels, that were on the AngelList, when it was actually an email list and an email that Neval would send around with interesting deals to look at. It’s obviously involved since then. I did finally put a syndicate together about three or four months ago, but I haven’t put a company though as I’m learning how the syndicate process works. There’s been a number of changes, in terms of AngelList publicizing deals, they have their own funds and what the right process for taking a company through there. So, I think it’s a great platform and I’m definitely planning on using it. I’ve also been a member of Sand Hill Angels for about 11 years. So, this is one of the earlier Angel groups, which is a model that’s proliferated around the country. The band of Angels here was probably the first such group that’s been around for probably a little over 20 years now. With them, it was primarily retired tech executives that were looking to basically socialize with each other and invest in companies in a kind of dinner club. With the Sand Hill Angels, we came together, still people in the tech industry. Most of us were still working, kind of mid-career, but wanted to be able to mentor and invest collectively. Anybody who’s gone into Angel Investing on their own has made some pretty stupid decisions early on. So, this was a way to protect yourself from your own stupidity, a little bit, and have that collective wisdom and intelligence. Having the ability to invest, with a group of people, to be able to invest more capital into a particular company. And then, from an investors standpoint, having a little more control and being considered a major investor. From the entrepreneurial standpoint, being able to tap the collective networks and expertise of the people in the group. So, on paper, it works great. In practice, there’s a lot of challenges anytime you’ve got an entrepreneur that’s raising money from a group. In terms of transparency, where are you at? Is this financing actually going to close? I think we’re better than most, and we invest as an entity, so the entrepreneur typically is dealing with one or two people at Sand Hill Angels. Versus a number of Angel groups that call themselves Angel groups, but are really a collection of individuals, and you have to close on each individual separately. You have each individual than as an investor on your cap table, or worse yet, there are some Angel groups that are charging entrepreneurs to come in and present. You definitely want to be very, very careful as an entrepreneur, of anyone who’s trying to take money from you, particularly if they call themselves an investor. Because the investors are supposed to be the ones with the capital. You’re the poor, starving entrepreneur. There are certainly success stories from companies that have probably gone down that road, and paid to pitch. But, I’d say they’re far and few between, and there’s enough, very above board investors that you shouldn’t need to do that.
Scott: You also talked about your [inaudible] points earlier. I actually really believe in that. I’m like you, sometimes people offer me equity to help out or make intros, and I’m always like, “I believe in what you’re doing. I think it’s a good idea. That’s why I want to make the intros.”
Steve: It depends on what you’re doing. I’ve certainly gotten involved with companies and advisors and had an equity grant. And again, it’s usually a nice thank you, but it’s also a way that I’m committing to the entrepreneur to really help them. So, it’s not just, “Okay, sure. You can send me an email. If I think of what you’re doing, I’ll try and connect you.” But, I’m actually going to spend some time, and some mental energy, because there’s only a certain number of things that you can keep in your head the whole time. Maybe you have a list. I don’t think that, and I haven’t been seeing this quite as much, but there was a time there where I think entrepreneurs were being given some advice. You want to get as many people on your advisory board as you can. You want some big names. The problem is, I’ve had a couple of accelerators, I’ve been with the venture firm, I’ve been with the Angel group, I’ve been on my own, is that the first thing you do, when you look at a list of advisors, you start asking probing questions. What are they actually doing? Why are you giving them this equity?
Scott: How active are they?
Steve: I’ve seen them in other deals, where I’ve been involved in investing. Have they made an investment? Well, they haven’t yet, but I think they might. Then that’s a big red flag that goes up. So, you’ve got somebody that’s on your advisory board, that you’re giving some equity to, who’s an investor, who has decided not to invest in your company at this time, I think that’s actually working against you.
Scott: Yeah.
Steve: Definitely think about that one.
Scott: How much of your work, is your startup CFO work, do you kind of equity in cash or how does it work?
Steve: I do, again, I think the flexibility that I’ve had is basically doing this CFO work on my own, is unlike you. Where you have a little larger organizations, you have employees, I had actually scaled up Bodega Partners, at one point, to have half a dozen people and decided I didn’t want to go that road with the services firm. So, I like taking equity and figure out, once we get done playing this full game, I’m going to be well ahead, having taken equity. But, I do take a mix of equity and cash. Again, startups are used to kind of paying something, but certainly that’s a way to reduce the burn for the startup. When I started doing this, the value proposition was you don’t need a full time CFO on your team for a long time. But, you do need some of the strategic finance skills that can be brought to the table, but again you don’t need that anywhere close to full time. I can be a member of the team. Personally I like playing this role, because I like keeping the operating hat on, and this is a way that I can do it, and I can do it with one or two companies at a time. Typically, I won’t do more, because I’m also doing the teaching, and the advising and the investing.
Scott: I don’t know how you have enough time in the day.
Steve: Again, I don’t know either, it varies. I’m kind of an adult ADHD kind of guy. So, it helps me to be doing something different every day. Because, when I first started doing this, there were a couple times where I was with companies that seemed like they were doing really well or hot, and the opportunity was there to come in as a full time. And I gave it strong consideration once or twice, and ultimately said no. Since then, I haven’t considered it at all, because I’ve realized; One, it just doesn’t fit me. Two, the CFO role, as a company grows, becomes a lot more process. Which is not something that I like, and that I’m particularly good at. Again, I like the very early stage, from 5 to 25, 30, maybe 50 employees, where you’re figuring out the business. You’re whiteboarding the teams small. You celebrate little victories, and then you have the rollercoaster ups and downs. As you said Scott, we only have one life here. Maybe for those that believe in life after death, maybe those karma points carry over, but if not, I think they’ll pay out at some point in my lifetime.
Scott: The karma points do work. People know you’re a good guy. They like working with you, so they refer you around or refer you to the next hot Angel. [crosstalk]
Steve: I think you had started down that path before we started talking in terms of deal flow. At this point, it’s pretty much all referral. I wish I could have time to talk to even all the entrepreneurs that I’m referred to, and I try if it comes from somebody that I know well. I’ll at least try to have an initial dialog, but it’s just not possible. Some cases, I just don’t have time and I’m overloaded other times. I just can’t get excited about what they’re doing. So, it’s not necessarily the entrepreneur, but I don’t want to start a meeting thinking, “Okay, this is something I’m definitely not interested in. Convince me that there’s a chance I might be interested.” But, I don’t think that’s the best use of either of our time.
Scott: Yeah, their time either.
Steve: I also mentor at a number of accelerators. So, at 500 startups, I’ve done TechStarters, Founder Institute where anyone who signs up I’ll come in and meet with 6, 8, 10 different entrepreneurs or teams. I always liked doing that and I like to spend time with my current and former students, talking through what they’re working on.
Scott: I like doing that to. I think that’s why we get along so well. Well, lets wrap this up a little bit. Maybe talk about … You talked about your criteria, like the passion and something that could be a big business, it could maybe be not just a huge venture funded, but also be a cash flow positive business someday. Are those your requirements for looking at a deal and are there any sectors you’re specifically looking for these days?
Steve: No, I don’t think that’s everything that I’m looking for, but I actually have a cheat sheet that I always carry around.
Scott: That’s smart.
Steve: It kind of goes through the different entrepreneurial characteristics. Looks at market, looks at business model, looks a little bit at finance and HR and culture and then some intangibles that I might or might not be interested in. I do have a mental checklist, but that can change. I was trying to think, because I know you’ve introduced me to a number of people over the years. [crosstalk]
Scott: You did Merchbar, right?
Steve: Merchbar! Right, [crosstalk] . That was actually one of the few entrepreneurs I think I only actually met face to face with him once before I invested. So, there must have been something about him. I think, with Ed, he’s kind of pivoted a little bit, it’s taking a little while to build this business, but it’s been very strategic about the relationships and the deals that he’s been doing. I think that was probably something. The kind of domain expertise. So, that’s something else. Definitely want somebody with not just the passion and the reason for what they’re doing, but somebody on the team has to have some domain.
Scott: That’s a good plan.
Steve: It’s interesting. I mentioned a couple accelerators, the last accelerator that I was involved with, was in the Fintech and cryptocurrency area. So, cross point ventures, I think we did about eight investments in 2014, and early 2015 into blockchain related startups. But, we were working with a different technology, so we had partnered with a company, Ripple Labs, to build this accelerator. That was one time where it was very focused on a particular industry. So, I like IoT a lot. I’ve been looking at a number of opportunities there, Fintech. I don’t like to close out on anything that I might find interesting. Because I’m more really about the entrepreneur, and I can often tell by whoever’s introducing me to that entrepreneur, how excited they are, how many entrepreneurs have they introduced to me over time, what the end result was. There’s certain people that if they ever introduce me to somebody, I’ll make sure I take a face to face meeting. There’s other, where I’m going to make sure I can at least be in contact with that entrepreneur. Then there’s others where I’ll probably respond to the email referral, but with a polite thanks but no thanks. Then there’s a lot of unsolicited LinkedIn spam, other stuff. But again, you only have so much time, and I want to make sure that I can add value to. If it’s an area where I don’t know anything, have any expertise, I may want to get involved if I can, but may not be the best Angel for the entrepreneur. If you’re taking smaller amounts of money from people, you want to make sure, I mean one, all moneys green, right? So, you’re trying to bring cash in, so you want to do that. But also, if you could pick and choose your investors, then figure out who’s going to be able to help you, who’s going to spend time, who’s going to open up their network for you.
Scott: That’s really good advice. Can you tell everyone where to find you? I know ProfessorVC on Twitter.
Steve: Sure. You can find me at Twitter at ProfessorVC. I think Twitter is still around, isn’t it?
Scott: I still use it. I still love it.
Steve: I do to, but I’m a little bit concerned about where it’s going. I was actually listening to a very entertaining interview with GaryVee and Larry King. That somehow came across my Facebook page. He was moaning a little bit that he’s got a million two Twitter followers and now the platform might be going away. Then of course Larry King said, “I think I have three million.”
Scott: Larry King’s actually funny on …
Steve: Yeah, yeah. Pretty funny. At ProfessorVC on Twitter. The blogs at You can find me at San Jose State, teaching my courses. And I’ve got a panel discussion that I’m going to be doing this funding 2.0 on November 9th, in San Francisco. So, if the podcast goes live before then, I’ll give you a link to that.
Scott: I’ll get it up this week then. Awesome. Well Steve, thanks for coming. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us. Really appreciate it, and thanks for being a friend and being a great guy.
Steve: Thanks Scott. This was a lot of fun.

Kruze Cares More - We take our clients’ success - and happiness - seriously. Kruze has worked with hundreds of early-stage companies, many of which have gone on to raise tens to hundreds of millions in venture financing - and a number of which have been successfully acquired by major public companies.

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