Highlights from VCs at #SGGlobal: What Startups Need to Know

On Tuesday, February 12th, eight thousand entrepreneurs from around the world arrived at the Fox Theater in Redwood City for the annual Startup Grind Global Conference. Having braved the long coffee line, founders and entrepreneurs-in-training learned about everything from building a distinct workplace culture to fighting burnout. Joining the lineup were leaders from Oracle’s startup program to dive into the changing VC landscape, using open source for fun and profit, and navigating the world of funding as a woman.

If you couldn’t make the conference, don’t worry. While you might have missed out on making some great new friends, you can still learn from the highlights of Oracle’s talks right here.

1) To Stay Competitive, Live Your Brand Values

In the first Oracle talk of the day, “Navigating the Fast-Changing VC Landscape,” the importance of living your brand values was a recurring theme. Cat Lee, a partner at Maveron, explained that the amount of capital in the VC world results in a lot of competition. As a result, brand values are the way that you can differentiate your company from the competition.

“You can communicate your values by publicly stating them on your website,” Lee said. “They need to be lived and practiced. That will attract the right funders.”

Lee recommends communicating your brand values by publicly stating them on your website. For example, some of Maveron’s values include believing in profit and purpose, wanting to win the right way, and believing in relationships over transactions.

2) How Funding Impacts Culture

The same talk also dove into how increased funding can impact the way that a company’s values are played out. Charles Hudson, Managing Founder at Precursor Ventures, explained that an influx of money can actually result in issues if the company’s cultural foundation is not rock solid.

Hudson quoted Jason Fried from Basecamp by saying, “Big checks kill more businesses than they help.” In other words, Hudson explained, when a company has less than a million dollars in funding, they have constraints.

“When you remove financial constraints, the logic of focus was driven by money,” Hudson said. “When there’s more money, you need to have real conversations about why you do what you do.”

3) Now is the Time to Be a Founder

A key theme in a later panel — ”The F Word: Funding, Future, Female” — was how the VC ecosystem is ripe for new founders. As Nina Achadjian, the Principal at Index Ventures, said, “Now is the best time to be a founder. There are over 500 VC funds.” She continued, “Being able to articulate your value prop as a VC fund to a founder is more important than ever before.”

4) Choose Who You Work With

Entrepreneurs get to choose who they work with. Some tips from the panelists to suss out which fund to choose include:

  • Call founders whose companies went under and ask how their VC reacted.
  • Ask companies who are superstars how their VC supported them.
  • Get as much information on the fund as possible. Once they’re on your cap table, it’s really hard to get them off.

As Jayni Shah, Principal at Accomplice, said, “Your relationship with your VC is like a marriage. Think about the energy that you put into finding a life partner. Put that into finding your VC.”

5) Getting Acquired Should Not Be Your End Goal

Even though getting acquired is great, that should not be your team’s end goal. If it is, you’re bound to cut corners and create a product that doesn’t meet its potential. As Jayni Shah said, “Just make sure you have the best talent on your team. That’s all you can do. Thinking about getting acquired is the wrong headspace to be in.”