Sticking Our Neck Out
Who knew a Twitter thread could literally rip your heart open and pour out thoughts and emotions you’ve pushed down and pushed away and pushed pause on for so many years. Thoughts and emotions that still keep you up at night and chase you down the hall and race you back to bed only to greet you at the office the next morning.
But here we are.
I’ve been a VC for 17 years. I started my own firm, and one of the first institutional seed funds, 13 years ago. 7 or 8 years ago I started to be concerned that we were at the front end of a one size fits all VC monoculture that limited optionality for funded founders and left many more with the potential to scale on the sidelines, unfunded and unsupported. 5 years ago I went public with some ideas on how to address the narrowing pool of funding options for early-stage founders. 4 years ago we took a small allocation from our $85M third fund to launch Indie.vc as a lab for exploring and experimenting around these kinds of alternatives. From the launch post:
3 years ago I made the decision to focus the energy we’d previously dedicated to leading seed rounds to continue developing the Indie.vc model.
Given the strong LP base we had and given the reputation we’d accumulated as “smart money” and given the track record we‘d built spotting the seed stage opportunity early, I couldn’t shake the feeling of “if not me, who” and “if not now, when”.
So, as Tyler said, we stuck our neck out. Lending whatever credibility and reputation we had to the idea that founders deserved more and better options that suited their strategies and personalities than blitzscaling, breaking things and billion-dollar valuations.
Despite a strong response from entrepreneurs, and encouraging initial signs from the founders we’d funded, our LPs were not excited about a new direction.
We lost 80% of our LP base between Fund III and Fund IV.
Suddenly our necks felt more like a turkey’s on Thanksgiving morning than one wrapped in a warm embrace.
Thankfully, a handful of our entrepreneurial and institutional investors saw some of the opportunity we were seeing (or were at least intrigued enough to go along for the ride!). And, thankfully, a few new LPs came out of the woodwork who saw the same “seed sized” opportunity in the areas we were exploring with Indie.vc
Tyler probably doesn’t know any of this (we’ve only ever exchanged a couple emails) but it’s something I go to bed thinking about. It’s something that wakes me up and chases me down the hall. And it follows me to the office.
Every day I’m left with the ghosts of what might have been had I just told our LPs we were going to keep doing more of the same. What was already working. What they wanted to believe would continue to keep working.
But, instead, we stuck our neck out.
In doing so, it appears to be paving a path for Tyler, and others, to stick theirs out too.
And, if the news grabbing headlines in 2018 around big tech™️ and startups is any indication, we’re in desperate need of more funding models and voices that question the status quo, not more of the same.
If sticking our necks out, lending our reputation, and losing a couple LPs can help seed that ecosystem, it will have been more than worth it.
We launched the v1 site of Indie.vc on Jan 1, 2015.
On Jan 1, 2019 we’ll launch v3 of the program.
It will be our boldest version yet in both the investment terms we’ve developed for helping founders preserve optionality and ownership and the programming we have planned to support a growing ecosystem of entrepreneurs and investors rallying around Real Businesses.
This is not a charity. We believe deeply that there are hundreds, even thousands, of founders who could be thriving, at scale, if they didn’t have to keep asking a narrowing pool of investors for permission to exist. If you’ve ever wanted to work with an investment partner who was “all in” on having their own success directly linked to yours, or have your mission directly linked with a larger movement, v3 will be your chance…