Category Archives: Social Media

Cha-ching! AngelList’s new round

TechCrunch is reporting that AngelList is raising a “big round of financing at a valuation that multiple sources say will top $150M.”  As a first round of outside financing, it’s a whopper.

I couldn’t be more excited for the team and for AngelList.  It’s been a great service, one which has inserted itself into the necessary workflow of any early stage company executive or investor, making it one of the great interest-based networks out there.  I look at AngelList  a bit like a look at Quora–a key new social property that is immensely useful in my everyday life.  Kudos and congratulations.

I am fascinated by what the opportunity this round holds and by the potential of what AngelList seeks to become.  It is riding several important waves, which the TechCrunch article points out–notably the recently passed JOBS act.  Always a good thing.

If you’re a startup, you’ll want to be working on your AL profile.  AngelList will gain an increasing importance for startups, if it hasn’t already.  It’s like keeping your LinkedIn profile up to date–make sure you’re keeping your AngelList profile up to date.

If you’re a professional investor, you’ll want to be working on your AL profile.  Basically the same type of thing.  If you’re not there or you don’t ‘get’ ANgelList, then spend the time to figure it out.

About the only word of caution I’d have is this.  If you’re a startup, then getting on AngelList <> getting investment.  There’s a lot that goes in to building a company and attracting investors.  AngelList postings aren’t going to do it on your own.  If you’re an investor, same type of message.  Early stage investing is risky business.  The JOBS act and other efforts are lowering the barriers to anyone investing in these early stage ventures.  The adage of fools and their money holds true here.


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Mobile Brand Connect Dinner

Last night in San Francisco, BlueRun Ventures co-hosted the Brand Connect Dinner.  We work with Mark Evans at Social Local to put these events together, and we were thrilled to have speakers from Facebook, Proctor and Gamble, and Topsy speaking.  Also, it was a great audience of brands and entrepreneurs, seeking to build relationships and trade information.

There are a few takeaways I had from the event.

We are in early innings of what’s possible for brand advertising through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.  These social platforms are offering a new way for brands to communicate and connect with users.  Currently, most brands are merely repurposing content and media from existing campaigns (TV ads, magazine content, etc.) and just pushing it onto the Facebook wall, where they attempt to drive views and likes, etc.  What we saw though were several very interesting examples of new types of campaigns and engagements that leveraged some of the unique elements of Facebook to enable users to engage in more personal, more deep connections with the brands.  This was exciting.

There will need to be a continuing evolution here.  But this is to be expected if you study the history of media.  When TV first came out, for example, the first ads were basically radio ads just read on TV.  It took a while for everyone to figure out how to leverage TV.  But leverage it they did.  Same thing will happen in Facebook.

Big brands need massive scale from a startup to really engage.  On the one hand, many of the big brands–P&G for example–are getting much more serious about engaging with innovative young startup companies.  We saw this at the Big Brand Hackathon earlier this summer, where Home Depot, Toblerone, Ritz Cracker, and Kraft Mac & Cheese, all joined us and a bunch of hackers to build mobile-oriented demo projects that met their specific brand objectives.  Big companies and brands recognize that these new media types and these new innovations are areas they need to build musclature around, and it is great to see them engaging and working to stretch themselves to strengthen themselves here.

At the same time, its important for a reality check.  Concretely, big brands are driving massive scale and massive P&Ls.  This means that for a startup to really matter to a brand, there is a very high hurdle that the startup has to cross to become meaningful.  As Sonny Jandial, P&G’s Head of Innovation pointed out, the Brand Manager for Dawn Dish Soap is selling $1B worth of soap per year at around $4 a unit.  That Brand Manager has to move *a lot* of soap.  By definition, for the brand to engage beyond a little pilot or experiment with a startup, then, the startup has to be able to deliver meaningful numbers.  It’s a tall order, and as Sonny pointed out, his role is to be more of an experimenter on P&Gs behalf and help startups get nurtured to a level where they can grow to a point where they’d have an appopriate amount of scale to engage.

Budgets seem to be coming.  Without holding the brands to any fixed numbers, it did sound as though there was real understanding and thinking around th e need to spend here.  Engaging with Silicon Valley is not a hobby effort–it’s real and it’s serious.  The bar is of course high, but it did seem as though the budget is there.

All in all, over the last 6 months, I have seen a tremendous amount of interaction between large brands and with our portfolio and with the startup ecosystem more broadly.  This is an exciting trend.  At BlueRun, we will definitely continue to drive further into helping engage and connect brands into the ecosystem, and I’ll look forward to the next opportunities to get together.  See you at the next Brand Connect dinner!



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A Trend That’ll Continue

Comedian Louis C.K. performs for servicemember...TechCrunch reports this morning on some of the early success comedian Louis CK is having in going direct in selling tickets to his concerts.  The net result of Louis CK’s approach suggests that it’s a winning move for the comedian and his fans.  Those on the losing side appear to be the groups like TicketMaster (and its ilk, a la Live Nation) and scalpers.

This is great news.  For years, the concert promoters–Ticket Master, Live Nation, etc.–solidified their power into what was basically monopoly power over artists and fans.  If you wanted access to a big venue as an artist or if you wanted to spend money to see an artist, you basically had to deal with one of these promoters.  John Seabrook wrote a great article in the New Yorker that described the power these promoters have had.

I expect that as more artists watch Louis CK’s approach build momentum taht they’re going to follow suit.  As more and more of the profit pool of artists in comedy or music is found in touring as opposed to recording, you can bet that they’ll want to go direct to retain a higher percentage of the revenue and to build a better relationship with their fans.

The internet and software will absolutely disrupt the middlemen here, as they have elsewhere.  Kudos to the artists and great news for the fans.


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Glimpse Social Discovery Panel (Video)

I mentioned this panel in a post back at the time, and just came across the video.  I’m embedding it here:

I think all the panelists were really strong. In particular, I thought some of the discussion around what the different investors thought was important to them when they considered investing was particularly interesting.


Reflections from Glimpse Social Discovery Conference

This week, I got the opportunity to participate on an investor panel at the Glimpse Social Discovery Conference in San Francisco.  I was onstage with Aydin Senkut of Felicis Ventures, Josh Elman of Greylock, Christina Brodbeck (Co-Founder of theicebreak, and prominent angel investor), with Dylan Tweney of VentureBeat moderating.

It was an interesting discussion for a few reasons.  First, there had been a pretty prominent set of press the morning of the event around a recent Paul Graham note to his YC companies and alums saying that the fund-raising environment was going to get more challenging as a result of the weakness of the Facebook IPO.  Also, there was a lot of interest in the category of “Social Discovery,” in part owing to Facebook and LinkedIn’s recent IPOs, and with the excitement and interest that we’re seeing with services like Pinterest, Instagram, and others.

I thought the insights from the other panelists was great.  Elman, in particular, whom I’d not met before, really I think framed well the whole category as basically saying that he thought social and social discovery was basically just replacing what he called “media”.  I think this is apparent–but what I liked here as that he’s just thinking about it simply.  Nothing fancy, just good old fashion disruption.  Elman also pointed out, based on his experiences working at Facebook, Twitter and others, that for him as an investor, distribution is really key.  Figuring out how the flows of the product and the sharing really draws people in and enables you to gain new users is vital as he evaluates early stage teams and business opportunities.  Great advice here, and indeed this is something that in my experience many teams skip over or think about too lightly.

Another point that was a fun discussion was raised when Dylan asked us how businesses get built via social discovery.  In my view, again, borrowing from Elman’s thesis that this is all replacing media, is that with eyeballs comes the opportunity for revenue from businesses.  With all the information and intent information that these new services are capturing–where you are, what you like, what you want, etc.–the proposition in terms of promotions to offer are way more interesting and useful than what I’d call old world media.  I continue ot believe that.  I also talked a bit about how I believe that we’ll continue to see growing social media channels–how I interact on Path is different from how I interact on Twitter is different from Facebook, etc.  Given that, I think we’ll have different media channels, as we have many different cable TV channels today on TV.  This was basically just a reprise of articles I’ve written before.

So all in all, a lot of fun and I got some good info from.  Hope to get chance to participate next year!



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Traction Speaks Louder Than Words In Today’s Social Software Space

As covered elsewhere, I am a believer that we are going to see more social media software brands and experiences.  I think that users will want to have different social media channels and experiences to engage with depending on what type of context, which relationships, etc. that they want to engage in at that particular moment.  If I’m coming out of the gym, I might hit Fitocracy and not hit Facebook, as I don’t want all my friends to know about my exercising habits as that seems a little weird. Etc., We could roll out scenarios like this all day long.

I expect that we will see lots of efforts that try, and like many startups in a growing, well hyped market, there will be lots that flame out and some that survive.  And that’s ok, that’s the startup world.

In today’s world of software, especially in social, focusing in on nailing product-market fit has never been more important.  On the one hand, the costs of building and distributing software has never been cheaper, and these costs are dropping every day.  Add to this the large number of talented teams and the broadly available tools and resources for founders to build and manage their businesses, and you’ve got an environment where social software companies are popping up everywhere.

On the other hand, with social media services, there’s certainly no single recipe for success.  Why does Pinterest break through with its pinning and matrix mechanic, when other social services haven’t taken off?  Why does Thumb with a very simple mechanic drive crazy high engagement, when other mobile Q&A sites struggle to get liquidity in their markets?

Ahead of time, I think no one really knows–users just tend to gravitate towards certain services.  Recall many thought Twitter was frivolous and stupid a few short years ago, now its been essential in driving mass scale changes in the way the world communicates.

Like the saying ‘success has many fathers,’ once the product-market fit is established and an early path towards growth is on track, then many can start to explain why a Pinterest, Twitter, Thumb or others are working.  The impossibly hard effort, however, is getting to that early product market fit and early growth path.

This is hard, and its critically essential.  In today’s world of startups, where software can be built and launched so cheaply, one would think it’d be easier to drive to scale and funding and all that goo stuff.  I think the opposite is actually true in many ways: with the low costs of launching and iterating, the bar has been raised on startups.  Now you had better be able to showcase early traction, product market fit, and growth, otherwise there’s another startup out there that can.


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