How I’ll be investing in 2017

In 2017, I hope to make some personal investments in startups. I found it useful for myself, and hopefully for you, to write a bit about what I’m interested in investing in and how I hope to add value as an investor.

What I’m investing in

Internet-enabled brands. These are brands who take some advantage from online distribution of brand or goods. Over time these brands will move offline as well, but something about the internet made them possible. They may sell physical or purely digital goods.

Examples: Ipsy (distributed via Youtube), Soylent (first launched on crowdfunding platform Tilt, popularized on reddit), ShopJeen (distributed via Instagram).

The future of software development. The most exciting part about software today is that it is getting easier to write than ever before, which means people who are closer to users will be able to build products themselves. I’m looking for companies that make it easier to write and deploy software. That said, developer tools is a hard business. So I’m particularly interested when there’s a great business attached, or a reasonable theory of what one might be.

Examples: Heroku, Parse, Squarespace, Weebly, Github, DigitalOcean

Collective intelligence / online communities / augmented cognition. I’m generally interested in how groups of humans + digital networks + computers can make a smarter collective intelligence. If the computer is the bicycle for the mind, what happens you put that bicycle on a trampoline held up by us all?

Examples: online communities like reddit, collaborative resources like Wikipedia, the creation of completely digital friends, and tools for thinking better.

ML-enabled everything. I think there will be a whole generation of companies that aren’t “ML” companies but “ML” enabled. What kinds of user experiences are now possible but previously had too much friction? If you have a ‘.ai’ domain, you’re probably not the best fit for what I’m looking for. I’ll write more about what I think is happening here very soon.

Examples: Everlaw (legal e-discovery), Trace Genomics (soil quality), Springrole (candidate sourcing).

Finally, I’m also extremely excited about autonomous vehicles and small computers but I’m not yet sure it’s a great time to be a startup in those areas: please prove me wrong!

How I like to work with companies I’ve invested in

Generally, I think there are only four ways investors can offer value to companies:

  • counsel
  • introduction/closing of employees and advisors
  • introduction/closing of customers
  • introduction/closing of other investors

Any of these things can create significant value or potentially save a company from death, but an investor can never create value where there isn’t something great to start.

My style of counsel is usually a set of questions focused on helping you make the best decision for yourself– I wouldn’t invest otherwise. My counsel is most useful in three areas: strategy (what are the “Big Ideas”, how to navigate the field), product (how do users think, how to focus on what matters), and teams (how to organize to get things done, how to make the hard calls).

My employee/advisor network is focused around product and engineering. I can offer relatively few introductions to customers. I have a wide network of investors but plan on spending less time with them (and more time with builders) going forward.

I invest small amounts but hope I’m the best investor per dollar on the cap table by a long shot.

How to reach me

Please email me at my first and last name (no punctuation, etc.) at Gmail.

I can meet many fewer companies than I’d like, so my apologies in advance. I’m based in NYC but spend a significant amount of time in the Bay Area, and will invest regardless of geography.

To receive future posts via email, sign up here. Thanks to Eric, Jeff, Kanyi, and Chris for looking at earlier drafts of this post.