What it’s like being a startup founder operating in this market.

You are not Alone. A Few Notes From the Field.

Angular Ventures Weekly
Angular Ventures

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Angular Ventures Weekly Issue #189: For the week ended June 20, 2023

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You are not alone. A few notes from the field
Gil Dibner

It’s a beautiful Monday afternoon and I’m in an undisclosed location, somewhere in Europe. :) I don’t have a good enough idea for one big column today, but there are a few smaller things I wanted to put out there, in the hopes that they help someone.

Put down what you are carrying. Over recent years, we have seen quite a bit of founder turnover at some of our companies. In some cases, there are massive differences of personalities or strategies. In others, someone is not pulling their weight, impatient for success, or unable to scale as required. Many of these cases involve teams that have worked together for years, often successfully, and yet — the strains eventually emerge. In nearly all these cases, the parties involved wait too long to resolve it. And in all these cases, once it is finally resolved — once the issues and the tensions and the questions are put on the table out in the open — the company is able to move on in a better way. In every case, someone leaves. It’s painful, but everyone is better off with that traumatic event behind them — and the remaining founders suddenly find it much easier to operate without that baggage. If you find yourself reading this aware of such an issue at your company or that of a friend — take action today. Take the steps that will let you put down your baggage and move forward in the best way. If you are facing serious co-founder issues, know that you are not alone. These things happen, and they do not mean your company is doomed.

Rough sledding for venture rounds. Unless you are a pre-product AI company with stellar perceived DNA from some past employer, fundraising is incredibly painful right now. We are seeing and, yes, experiencing, deals getting repriced all the time. Even VCs that want to do a deal and love a given company just can’t seem to drag themselves over the line. No investment committee at any VC really wants to approve anything right now — and, in the words of my partner David, every VC is looking for a reason (any reason at all) to kill a deal. The advice is simple (and hasn’t changed much): fundraising is about financing your business and adding partners to the journey, it’s not about driving valuation or creating hype or news. If you find yourself facing a process that isn’t converging fast enough or — gasp! — is getting retraded, relax. It’s not you. It’s the market, and you are not alone. It’s your job as CEO to finance your business and get that deal done at the market-clearing price. Is it lower than you wished? Than you believed? Almost certainly. That’s not a good reason to go out of business — and that is exactly what is at stake for most companies. Your first priority right now is to live to fight another day.

Fighting. Speaking of fighting, we continue to be amazed at the degree of grit so many founders are exhibiting. The seeds of greatness of our portfolio companies are buried deep in their update emails. A new account here. A POC there. A first upsell here. A first expansion across an organization into a new department there. The first time a self-service customer opened their wallet. Over the past year, the startup experience for so many founders (and the VCs that love them) has returned to being that dark and lonely struggle that is the stuff of true business legend as opposed to grist for another HBO Sitcom. It is inspiring to watch the founders in our portfolio steadily and surely put one foot in front of the other and will themselves up the mountainside. These heroic struggles are happening everywhere, I am sure. You are not alone.

Keep fighting the fight,
Gil

PODCAST

US Immigration Best Practices
Jennifer Schear, Founding Partner, Schear Immigration Law Firm

Learnings from Co-Founding Peakon, Podio, and Future Five
Kasper Hulthin, Co-Founder, Peakon, Podio, Future Five

The Evolution of Collibra’s Product Positioning & How They Created a Category
Stijn “Stan” Christiaens, Co-Founder & Chief Data Citizen, Collibra

Lessons Learned From Investing Early in Over a Dozen SaaS Unicorns
Jason Green, Founder & General Partner, Emergence Capital

FROM THE BLOG

The Problem with Startup Advice
The best founders and investors know the rules, but also know when to break them.

Looking Back to Move Forward
How to survive this extraordinarily exciting and wildly disconcerting age of generative AI.

LLMs and the Future of Customer-built Software Design
How will LLMs change software development and design?

Navigating AI’s iPhone Moment
A venture perspective on LLMs and what’s next…

WORTH READING

ENTERPRISE/TECH NEWS

The state of deep tech. Bessemer has released its State of Deep Tech report and its list of the top 100 deep tech companies, the “definitive ranking of the world’s top private deep technology companies”. The list includes agricultural, AI, aviation, climate, mobility, biotech, quantum, robotics, and space companies. Topping the list, unsurprisingly, is SpaceX followed by OpenAI. Bessemer stresses that — while investing in deep tech companies can be risky as these companies are incredibly complex, take a long time to ramp up and require the proper technology, talent, and tons of cash — deep tech companies hold “a key to solving many of humanity’s toughest challenges.”

AI premium. Tomasz Tunguz explored if there is an AI premium in the fundraising market. Interestingly, he concluded that, according to the data of early stage AI and software companies funding rounds, there isn’t a premium. “Seed & A stage companies’ valuations are identical across these two sectors. Series B AI prices surged twice in the last 12 years, driven by a handful of outliers, but otherwise, they also move in lockstep. Across all of them, the correlation is 0.98.”

The $100M+ seed round. Speaking of outliers, in venture circles this past week, there has been a lot of talk of the Mistral AI $113M seed round. This round is surprising for a couple of reasons. First, these massive seed rounds were thought to be largely extinct. Additionally, the company is only one month old. Lastly, it’s notable that a startup is being funded in a space where it’s directly competing with some of the largest tech companies in the world.

HOW TO STARTUP

Hiring pitfalls. Daniel Rizea, a Director of Software Engineering at Google, shared his view on the pitfalls of hiring and how to know if a hire will work out. He shares that “ultimately, what matters to me is the answer to my question: Is the candidate smart, gets things done, and a good culture add? If the answer is yes, I try to set the candidate up for success the best I can. If I have missing information, I may request another interview session. If I have all the information I need and I am not certain, most likely, my answer is no.”

Global startup ecosystem report. Startup Genome has released the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2023, a comprehensive analysis of the current state of startup ecosystems worldwide. The key finding: “the top three ecosystems have maintained their positions from 2020, with Silicon Valley remaining at the top, followed by New York City and London tied at #2.” As San Francisco continues to be plagued with issues and some prominent figures predict a tax base collapse, will the Bay Area finally be dethroned as the top startup ecosystem in the next couple of years?

HOW TO VENTURE

The end of megafunds. Not too long ago, the strategies of megafunds like Tiger Global of maximum deployment velocity and better/faster/cheaper capital for founders effectively worked. However, today megafunds are decreasing in size. According to SEC filings, Tiger Global raised $2.7B for its latest fund, 55% less than the $6 billion goal it set for the new fund as of last fall and is 79% less than the prior investment fund it raised early last year”. Additionally, “Insight Partners has reduced the target of its next fund 25% to $15 billion, the Financial Times first reported this week.” This correction, as The Information reported, “should help smaller VC firms compete”. Megafunds made “winning deals far more challenging for traditional, smaller venture firms […]. A coming correction to fund sizes should also finally temper overheated valuations, a relief for the VC industry, particularly the smaller firms that couldn’t pay the high prices.”

PORTFOLIO NEWS

Paradime launched Paradime Synq, the collaboration plugin to bring analytics and business operations together.

LightSolver’s CEO, Ruti Ben Shlomi, was interviewed about how LightSolver can outperform classical computers and HPC, and the advantages their proprietary LPU technology has over quantum computers.

Reco and Wiz are collaborating so users can benefit from a comprehensive cloud security solution that covers both SaaS and cloud environments.

CruxOCM won Silver for energy industry innovation of the year at the 21st annual American Business Awards.

Forter announced IMPACT 2023, a full-day event which will feature a series of master classes, breakouts and networking sessions designed with the future of digital commerce in mind.

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