A startup I’m really digging right now

Rapportive screen shot

Rapportive screen shot

I’m really getting into Rapportive, which is a simple CRM built into gmail. Basically, it looks up the person with whom I’m exchanging emails and lets me know a bit about them. The source mainly seems to be LinkedIN and Twitter – it’s very interesting to see the person’s most recent tweets…

Rapportive is helping me quickly understand the people who are emailing me. I’m optimistic that the team at Rapportive has found a good venue for developing a cool point of view on the next generation of CRM applications. I’d encourage gmail users to check it out!

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A shout out to a startup trying to make the world a better place

I’d like to give a virtual high five to a friend of a friend who has created a startup that is trying to help make the world a better place. In 2006 Ben Munoz suffered a life threatening brain hemorrhage – and realized during his recovery that connecting with others who were recovering from the same illness was incredibly powerful. He decided to make it easier for others like him to find each other online through BensFriends.org – a patient community and health care social network for people recovering from and helping others recover from life threatening illnesses.

Ben is building networks for aicardi syndrome,  brain aneurysms and more. He’s also showing us the power the internet has to help people. I know I always talk about new businesses and how large companies like Google and Apple are fighting with each other, trying to make a buck… but sometimes it seems like I need to take a step back and remember one of the most important functions of the net has nothing to do with money or growing a business – it’s about connecting people.

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Boston area venture fund looking for interns

A well known Boston area VC fund – SoftBank Capital – is looking for summer interns this year – both at the undergrad and MBA level. The description is  below. Note that I’ve just copy pasted it into this blog post, so the “we” is actually SoftBank, not me. Make sure you actually fit the description before you apply.

I can speak highly of SoftBank, having spent a lot of time on the board of the New England Venture Network with Joe Medved of Softbank. This is a great opportunity and I encourage people to check it out.

Summer in VC with SoftBank Capital

We are looking to hire one undergrad and one MBA to work at SoftBank Capital for eight weeks this summer as paid interns in our office in Newton, MA.

Our fund is focused on investment opportunities in ubiquitous, social computing. We have been making early stage investments since 1995 in companies such as Yahoo!, E*Trade, GSI Commerce, The Huffington Post, Sermo, Buddy Media and BuzzFeed. To learn more, visit www.softbank.com.

We are looking for candidates with a passionate interest in digital media, who can demonstrate the base knowledge and initiative required to contribute to the team over a relatively short time frame. Interns would assist with the following:

·         Review of the industry landscape

·         Identifying and assessing potential investment opportunities

·         Helping support existing portfolio companies

To apply, please email contactus@softbank.com with a succinct summary of your:

·         Online Presence – Blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

·         Digital Portfolio – Describe your favorite sites, apps and devices

·         Digital Outlook – Tell us what are the most popular, emerging digital services amongst your peers, and which ones you think have mainstream, commercial potential

We have a preference for undergrads completing their junior year and MBAs completing their first year. The deadline for applications is April 30.

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Naming a company

A while ago my company changed its name from Pixily to OfficeDrop. While we briefly talked about this on our blog, two recent posts have talked about this change. Dharmesh Shah’s OnStartups has a piece on coming up with a company name written by me (and OfficeDrop’s fearless marketing intern Matt Fellows). Matt and I detailed the name change brainstorming and customer validation/involvement process. I’m glad Dharmesh published this piece – he and I have had some pretty involved/heated discussions on the importance of choosing your startup’s name and the ramifications of actually getting a particular name.

Ivana Taylor, a small business technology and marketing professional, posted an interview she did with me on the QuestionPro blog on how we changed our name from Pixily to OfficeDrop. It was nice of her to do such and extensive writeup on our process.

Startup naming is a very difficult thing to do. It’s hard to find a name that customers will remember, that is somehow descriptive or evokes what it is that you do – and finally one that you can get the domain name of. Domain name hording isn’t too bad of an idea – OfficeDrop owns over 200 domains, and I’ve been collecting a ton recently too around the concept of the smart grid and smart grid applications.

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Why the world doesn’t need a standardized set of seed investment documents

Jason Mendelson has a thoughtful post on why he thinks efforts to harmonize the current plethora of template seed investment funding documents will come to naught. His main point is that getting everyone to agree is an exercise in herding cats and that Brad Feld is going to beat his head against the wall trying to get people on the same page. He’s probably right, although I have found Brad to be a pretty charming guy, so who knows, maybe it is possible.

But who cares?

I don’t see another standardized set of deal documents as solving any real problem.

As an entrepreneur/former VC I see three main goals of standardized deal documents:

  1. Reduce the time required to raise capital
  2. Reduce the legal cost of executing a deal
  3. Make it easier to execute follow on investments by not making a silly mistake/term in your fund raise

Here is why a standardized set of seed documents doesn’t really help the entrepreneur.

  1. It’s going to take the same amount of time to get a deal done. Did the NVCA standard deal documents for Series A investments reduce the 30 to 60 day time frame it used to take to close a Series A deal (from signed term sheet to funding) NOPE. It still takes the median deal 30 to 60 days to close. (See my next bullet on how it takes the same amount of billable legal time to close a deal even with the standard documents.) Seed investors are the same way. Some will write a check fast, others take their own sweet time. This time frame is not driven by legal, it is driven by the individual investor. It’s not going to change with another set of standardized docs.
  2. Do Series A deals legal fees cost less now that there are the NVCA standard documents? No. Costs have probably gone up. Closing an investment takes pretty much the same amount of legal hours as it always has. Why? Because the cost of having a crappy lawyer work on your Series A deal is too high, so entrepreneurs and VCs go with the best/most expensive lawyers they can find. And the best lawyers need to “add value” so they fight over every random point, because there is that one in a thousand potential circumstance where it will actually really matter. And thus that is why they are good lawyers, always thinking of potential future issues and trying to protect you. And so it’s freaking expensive since all their thinking and arguing time costs a ton per hour. Anyway, the main point is that standardized Series A documents have not reduced the typical legal bill for a Series A transaction and I just don’t see them reducing the legal bill for the typical angel investment. The MO of the investor you go with will determine how much legal effort goes into your fund raise, not the documents you choose off of which to base your deal.
  3. Finally, if the goal of the seed documents is to make it easier to raise your next round of funding I think we are already there. (of course, consult your expensive attorney don’t rely on my legal advice.) Any of the currently existing standard seed templates listed by Jason in his post are probably good enough to not blow up your next round of financing. You are much more likely to have your next round destroyed by a difficult personality (either a difficult seed investor not agreeing with something next round investor “needs” or a next round investor insisting on something “impossible” for a seed investor to sign off on) than by something odd in one of the already existing standardized seed term sheets. In other words, the difficult personalities I’ve just cited just as likely to fight over any random term anyways, so one set of standard docs vs another doesn’t really matter. Oh yeah – don’t take my legal advice when negotiating/drafting your deal documents, talk to your experienced lawyer; did I mention that yet?

I think that the legal costs associated with closing a private fund raise are always going to be nuts. The only thing that I know for sure will make it less costly to raise seed funding is to get an investor who is laid back. It really seems like a personality thing to me, not a standardized legal document thing. If investors really want to help entrepreneurs and make it easier for startups to connect with qualified investors. Something like what Venturehacks is doing with their AngelList.

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