Angular Ventures
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Angular Ventures

ClearSpace recently raised $28.8M for its satellite and debris removal services for the space industry.

Angular Ventures Weekly

Issue #171: For the week ended January 24, 2023

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Burn out vs. Cash out
Gil Dibner

As I settled in to write this at 36,000 feet over Newfoundland, I’m thinking back to a board call earlier this week. The company is — by any measure — doing just fine. It’s early, but the product is brilliant. Users and customers love it. There are early revenues and other signs of traction. The team is outstanding — about as good as they get. But the meeting quickly took a weird turn as the team started to present their findings. Sales cycles are too long, they said, and they are wondering if there might not be a market after all for…..

Ok. Stop it right there.

After a few minutes of discussion, it became clear to me that — while there are many useful insights in their analysis — there was simply nowhere near the amount of evidence they thought there was. They were down. They were having an off week, maybe an off quarter. They were tired.

First off, I found myself reminding them that we are still in the early innings of a massive slowdown and tech spending. Who isn’t having an off quarter right now? Second, the “slow sales cycle” relates to an enterprise-wide deployment at one of the most highly regarded customers on the planet — one that (gasp!) is also having a pretty difficult time navigating the slowdown. It’s all over the press. So a miraculously successful sales cycle that was worryingly fast is now — perhaps — just comfortingly “normal” and slow.

The bigger picture, however, is that the mindset of these founders is what worries me most. They are incredibly hardworking, and holding themselves to standards and targets that might have been appropriate in the go-go times of 2021, but are just not relevant today. A few weeks ago, on the “All In Podcast,” one of the hosts (I forget who) said something brilliant. He basically said: “you have to give yourself permission to grow slower in this environment.” Reality is that everyone is going to grow slower right now. Nothing is easy, and — as we’ve pointed out in this column, “no one is having fun.”

The really hard part, however, is giving yourself permission to grow a little slower. If you don’t give yourself permission to accept the reality of this slowdown, how do you plan to navigate it correctly? This is not an exhortation to be relaxed about poor performance, but it is a strong encouragement to constantly reassess what success actually means given the market conditions we are living in and the fact that your company is — after all — very young.

Even more importantly — your mental state (and that of your cofounders and team) matters. It is the single most valuable asset your small company has. Give yourself permission to take some personal time, reset, rethink, and come back reinvigorated and realistic. You owe yourself a shot at winning in reality. That is going to take time. That old phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” is absolutely true — and never more than right now. So pace yourself, and rest when you need to rest. You must avoid cash out, yes. But you also must avoid mental burn out. And that is harder now than ever.

Have a good week, and take care.

Gil

EVENTS

Feb 8 / Lessons Learned From Investing Early in Over a Dozen SaaS Unicorns Including Salesforce, SuccessFactors, Box, Gusto, SalesLoft, ServiceMax, Veeva, Bill.com, Doximity, Yammer and Zoom Among Others
Jason Green, Founder & General Partner, Emergence Capital

Mar 8 / The Evolution of Collibra’s Product Positioning & How They Created a Category
Stan Christiaens, Co-Founder & Chief Data Citizen, Collibra

FROM THE BLOG

The Tech Recession of 2022
What lessons can we learn from the successes and failures of the 2010s?

No One is Having Fun Right Now
And that’s okay.

It’s Never too Early to Build your Growth Model
What are the specific mechanisms by which one user turns into many, and an initial investment turns into revenue?

How to Think About Revenue Quality as an Early Stage Founder
What does “quality revenue” mean when you don’t have much revenue at all?

EUROPE & ISRAEL FUNDING NEWS

Israel/Industrial Systems. Exodigo closed $41M for its subsurface mapping solutions that combine sensors, 3D imaging, and AI technologies to provide a clear picture of the underground for customers across energy, utilities, transportation, and more.
Switzerland/Space Services. ClearSpace raised $28.8M for its satellite and debris removal services for the space industry.
Israel/Quantum Systems. Quantum Machines raised $20M for its quantum control solutions that accelerate the realization of practical quantum computers.

WORTH READING

ENTERPRISE/TECH NEWS

Google vs. OpenAI. The release of ChatGPT led to a flurry of predictions that Google’s core search business was finally going to be disrupted by OpenAI. swyx put together the absolute best breakdown of all the arguments for and against this prediction. Give it a read here.

CDR efforts may not be enough. More than 2B tons of CO2 is being removed from Earth’s atmosphere each year, according to a new report on carbon dioxide removal (CDR). This is an impressive amount, but not enough to meet the goals set by the Paris Climate Accords, suggesting that (1) there’s still a captive market for CDR methods, and (2) emission reduction will most likely still be a critical piece of the solution.

Looking ahead to 2023. I couldn’t choose just one, so you’ll get two prediction posts from some of the greatest tech leaders of this era. First, Bill Gates recently did an AMA on Reddit, where he made predictions on AI, climate change and more. Read his collated responses here. Second, a few days later, Elad Gil interviewed Reid Hoffman and asked about his thoughts on AI, the future of “big tech” and this new era of startups. The hour-long video is available here.

HOW TO STARTUP

Free-to-paid conversion. Kyle Poyar of OpenView Partners wrote a quick post breaking down what he calls the “smart trial.” This is a slightly advanced version of the “reverse trial” (see: Airtable’s trial as an example), which includes a bunch of content customization based on product usage and sales engagement data. He showcases how Coefficient uses it to great effect.

Enterprise IT slowdown. According to Gartner, enterprise IT spending is estimated to increase 2.4% from 2022 to 2023 (originally Gartner had estimated a 5.4% uptick). That’s good news. The reality is enterprise IT spending is still, according to Gartner, “recession-proof.” However, companies should expect sales cycles to be much longer.

HOW TO VENTURE

Coaching lessons. Cack Wilhelm from IVP penned an insightful piece this past week on coaching lessons she learned from her time running professionally, and how she brings those lessons to bear in her relationships with founders. She makes a lot of great points (which I won’t rehash here). My main takeaway is that being the best supporter of the founder and company doesn’t always look “friendly,” and sometimes it can feel quite harsh, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do.

Are seed generalists goners? Hunter Walk of Homebrew argued in a recent post that the era of seed generalist investors is over. Why? A few reasons. First, as software eats the world, the breadth of problems being solved by startups is too wide ranging for any one person to be able to credibly evaluate. Second, founders want investors who can “de-risk their path forward,” which might mean having the relevant industry relationships or experience to see around corners for them. Third, and finally, we’re entering a phase where alpha is coming from technical innovation, not just business model application. To see the best opportunities in a technical area, you need to be deep in it.

PORTFOLIO NEWS

Vault, the all-in-one digital Integrity platform, has a brand new look.

Januar was nominated for Europe’s Top 100 Blockchain Startup of 2023 by European Blockchain Convention.

Paradime was shortlisted for the Golden Kitty Awards 2022 in Data & Analytics at Product Hunt.

Forter acquired Immue to enhance bot detection capabilities.

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