It’s Time to Build at On Deck

I’m super excited to share that I’m joining On Deck as a founding Partner at ODX, our new $150M venture fund + accelerator.

For nearly 7 years, I’ve been a diligent student of early stage startups— first as an operator and now as an investor. I’m so fortunate to have been mentored by some of the best in the business during this time. Josh Kopelman + Phin Barnes gave me a foundational education in venture capital during my tenure as a Managing Partner at First Round’s Dorm Room Fund. Mike Maples + Ann Miura-Ko offered a masterclass in how to help entrepreneurs build zero to one during my time on the investing team at Floodgate. As a venture capitalist focused on the earliest stages, my mission is to be the first believer who puts in the first check, to help founders navigate the idea maze, and to iteratively guide them towards product-market fit. There isn’t a better place to achieve this today than at On Deck. I’d love to tell you why I came here and — if you’re thinking about starting something new — why you should build with us.

On Deck is organizing the world’s ambition.

On Deck operates the preeminent full-stack community for founders and startup builders, now counting more than nine thousand curated fellows (and growing) who we believe are spearheading the future of the innovation economy. Our flagship fellows network is ODF — On Deck Founders— which entrepreneurs can join to synchronously sprint on startup ideation with a cohort of their peers. We also run verticalized networks around sectors (e.g. fintech, healthtech), functions (e.g. product managers, designers), and other themes for folks who want to ramp up on a specific subject. To me, On Deck has line of sight to becoming Stanford for the Internet, and the talent mafia that is forming has a chance to eclipse anything anyone’s ever seen before. Evidence of this is clear — ODF alumni have started 800 companies that are collectively valued at $7B+ in the last 24 months alone.

ODX is a community-backed accelerator.

If you’re a founder who knows what you want to build, let’s chat. If we’re simpatico and want to work together, we’ll offer you a $125,000 investment check for 7% of the company. Taking on equity dilution isn’t an easy decision, and I certainly believe investors need to earn the right to be on your cap table. Let me explain what we offer. As a partner, I’ll step in and guide you through the zero to one with a personalized game plan — in my view different companies have different needs at different stages of execution. The moment we wire the money, we activate the On Deck network to help you build smarter, faster, and better. We’ve set up entire teams to help you find your cofounder, hire your first engineer, win your first customer, and brainstorm your fundraising strategy. Let us help you de-risk the phase of your company that presents the most difficult challenges and highest risk of failure!

ODX is designed for founders who already have conviction on an idea.

If this is you and we haven’t connected before, I wanted to talk to you yesterday! If you don’t have an idea just yet, hit me up anyway — if it’s a good fit we’ll direct you to ODF and straight up give you a $25K advance for personal runway to just tinker and explore (currently prioritizing folks who are needs-based — e.g. you might be eager to jump into starting a company but can’t afford to quit your job just yet). When you land on something awesome, we’ll loop you into ODX (and invest a much bigger $125K check on top). Since our launch a few weeks ago, we’ve received 7K+ applications and signed term sheets with 110+ companies for our inaugural ODX1 batch.

I’m making a public commitment to invest in startups globally, especially in emerging markets.

I grew up as an immigrant public school kid in the heart of Silicon Valley, a neighborhood away from where Jobs and Wozniak built the first Apple computer (shout out to my Homestead Mustangs). I love the magic of this place, but I firmly believe that the ability to unlock startup breakthroughs is not constrained by geography. Entrepreneurship is global, especially in a remote-first world where talent, capital, and culture can be accessed in a distributed manner via Internet native communities like On Deck (the modern day “Homebrew Club” that Jobs and Woz might have hung out around if they were getting started today). The time is now to dream up the unicorns that will define the next billion users. A shocking 37% of the world’s population has never been online before and the founders who best understand what they need are not based in San Francisco. They’re in Beijing, Bangalore, Lagos, or a dozen other emerging startup hubs! I’ve been passionate about making the American Dream a global one for many years — ever since studying international affairs at the Lauder Institute and spearheading international expansion at Square— and in many ways I consider this my life’s work. If you’re a founder based outside the United States and are working on something awesome, please reach out, I’d love to help.

On Deck is developing compounding asymmetric advantages in a super competitive startup funding ecosystem.

Let’s face it, capital is a commodity to founders today. To best serve them, you need something more than just personal brand, which is not intrinsically defensible. In my mind, On Deck has come closest to the right answer. We run a cashflow positive business through our fellowships (grew from $3M to $18.5M annual revenue last year), which has directly led to venture backing from legends like Keith Rabois at Founders Fund — this means we have deeper pockets to invest in hiring a world-class team and crafting better products for our entrepreneurs. We structure our fund in way that harnesses the power of our community — for example, we reserve allocation in each company we back (at ODX terms) for the person who originally introduced us to the founding team. We partner with strategic players to make it a no brainer for founders to work with us — for example, Flexport has committed to co-investing and mentoring every logistics startup that accepts an ODX check. Balaji Srinivasan, former CTO of Coinbase and general partner at a16z, has personally committed to do the same for every ODX startup based in India (right at the inflection point when India has just emerged as the #3 ranked country in the world for number of companies valued at $1B+). I’m betting on the On Deck platform, and I think other investors should too.

Let’s go build at On Deck.

Early on in the pandemic, Marc Andreessen issued a clarion call for us to build. He was right, and I believe On Deck is the network, platform, and venture fund that best positions ambitious people to do this — especially the underrated and the overlooked who are just jumping at the chance to get off the sidelines. Over the last few weeks, I’ve personally evaluated hundreds of companies and have found a jaw-dropping number of great ideas that startup builders around the world are going after. I’m thrilled to be teaming up with our founder Erik Torenberg again, who I actually interned for back in graduate school (and who may or may not have a terrible recording of a freestyle rap from my first day on the job). That goes double for Minn Kim, who convinced me to join and is the smartest superthinker I know in the business. Both actively encouraged me to take a path previously laid out by a role model of mine that I hold in the highest esteem— Garry Tan, who was an epic partner at Y Combinator before starting Initialized Capital. I’m not sure I can ever really live up to his example, but I do know On Deck will be one of the best ways to spend this next chapter of my life, if only because I’ll be the average of the friends I spend the most time with. Let’s go build!

Please reach out!

If anything you read above resonates and you want to get in trouble together, send me a note at shawn@beondeck.com. I read and respond to every email, and I can’t wait to get in touch with you.

  • If you’re an ideation stage founder, I’d love to help you brainstorm and pitch you on taking a check from ODX.
  • If you’re a post product-market fit founder, I’d love to be a superconnector + sounding board as an angel investor (ramping up my checks this year!)
  • If you’re an operator looking to plug in to the next rocketship, I’m happy to make some intros and be a sherpa to you through the On Deck network.
  • If you’re an investor that buys into the On Deck ethos, hit me up, we’re looking to expand the team and need A+ players.

Thank you to my many mentors and friends that helped me navigate this huge move in my career, particularly Mike Maples, Ann Miura-Ko, Arjun Chopra, Iris Choi, Josh Kopelman, Phin Barnes, Anne Lee Skates, Jay Kennedy, Leeor Mushin, Eric Liu, and Matt Gibstein. I’m stupid lucky to have you in my corner.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Shawn Xu

Shawn Xu

Investor @FloodgateFund | Formerly @DormRoomFund @Square | MBA/MA at @wharton and @lauderinstitute | Forbes 30 Under 30