Request for Startups — April 2019
I explore variants of talent networks and design. As always, I welcome feedback and collaboration.
Notion is cool. Everyone’s on that bandwagon.
Notion is a great general purpose piece of software that allows the user to easily create templates and workflows incorporating notes/docs, knowledge bases, tasks/projects, and databases. It’s un-opinionated as a product regarding the types of applications and areas you could use it for. You can project manage software products or strategize marketing channels in a collaborative fashion. Nevertheless, for many of these functions, vertical software can add and capture a lot of value. Let’s use recruiting as an example.
Recruiting orgs use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) like Greenhouse or Lever to manage and supercharge their processes. These are great, but they don’t allow users and teams to develop their own flows and templates in a recruiting workspace. I wonder if there’s room for software that could sit as a hybrid of Notion and an ATS, maybe even integrating into ATS to tailor the product to the function. Then, extend the framework across business functions.
Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs)-as-a-Service
I’ve thought a fair amount on how the Internet allows businesses to band together and leverage collective bargaining power to purchase assets, goods, or services — GPOs 2.0. Examples include healthcare providers and medical equipment, industrial manufacturers and heavy machinery, food buyers and produce, as well as service/IT businesses and office furniture.
Are there instances where it makes sense for disparate businesses to band together ad-hoc and form entities to purchase goods in bulk? One analogy I’d draw is AngelList allowing people to spin up vehicles geared to invest in a single company and handles back-office / reporting. These entities are created “on-demand” with the legal and compliance processes abstracted away, centralized in one place for many events. Could someone do something similar in a purchasing environment? Here’s a sample flow:
- Company A is looking for a deal on IT & Telecom services. It goes to a central platform with the request.
- The platform knows that Companies A, B, and C are all looking for the same service.
- The platform leverages this collective purchasing power to procure the services for all the businesses.
- If an entity needs to be created, the platform handles legal, accounting, reporting, etc. for the lifecycle of the vehicle.
Lambda School and Labor Networks
As always, I enjoyed this tweet from Peter, which spurred my thinking across two vectors. The first is that you could theoretically apply a similar education model to different forms of licensure and services businesses (real estate, insurance, etc.) The second is that code schools (in the mold of Lambda School) draw revenue from two sources — ISA income and recruiting placement fees into companies after the program. What would the cost structure and incentives look like if the business integrated further across the stack, so students “graduated” into an in-house service business and brand? This contributes to my thoughts on the future of service business models. Elizabeth Yin of Hustle Fund also elaborates on this model in her first point in this article.
Supercharging Creative Talent
Creative talent often doesn’t get their fair share of returns on work they do, especially for scaling startups (h/t Willem Van Lancker). Think about the enterprise value UI designers, copywriters, and photographers at Red Antler built for companies like Casper and Allbirds. Agencies like Gin Lane are paid handsomely and upfront, but there’s little involvement in long-term value capture for individuals and staffers.
In the past, I’ve seen experimentation with equity in exchange for services, but this hasn’t proven to be a viable model. Someone can figure out the right equity + cash arrangement in exchange for design services. Furthermore, Folder is interesting model to build off. Designers set upfront prices for assets, working on their own timelines and schedules, rather than enter into negotiations and engagements.
Emerging Investment Manager Training
Venture is a fairly collaborative asset class, where investment managers are willing to work with and mentor each other. How will these principles translate in other asset classes? Spearhead is a cool initiative that places capital in cohorts of experienced entrepreneurs and startup operators. The thesis is built on the assumptions that operational expertise in an asset class helps capital allocation and these very operators have exposure to asymmetric opportunities through their networks. I’ve thought about alternative investment classes before, and perhaps the Spearhead model (or variants of it) could work in real estate, private equity, or infrastructure investing.
Furthermore, venture capital isn’t the only asset class that suffers from diversity & inclusion issues. How does a program like AllRaise expand into other categories to lift up emerging managers that come from different backgrounds and under-represented groups in that asset class?
I’m inspired by Common and Tishman Speyer’s new joint venture in residential living — Kin. Kin provides flexible, city living for families with apartments, play spaces, babysitter services, and community support. Bulletin and Re:Store reimagine the retail space, creating locations that are dynamic and data-driven. You can imagine forms of repurposed space across real estate categories — assisted living facilities, tiny homes, warehouses, etc.
This will require a new real estate development and financing stack:
- APIs that uncover demographic and location data
- Modular furniture and construction businesses
- Flexible agreement structures and marketplaces
- Creative financing instruments
If you enjoyed these ideas and would like to chat, you can reach me at aashaysanghvi[at]gmail.com.