Network Updates, 2 August 2017
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Log into TENx for complete details and RSVP information for all KF events, unless noted.
- August 13-15: Singularity University Global Summit, SF (special KF discount)
- September 14: KF Women’s Group breakfast. Hosted by Miriam Rivera (Class 15) at her private residence.
- September 22: NY Regional Chapter breakfast
- October 5: Defy Ventures visit to California State Prison – Solano
- October 22-27: Modules 2 & 5
Intercontinental Hotel, San Francisco
- December 8: NY Regional Chapter breakfast
- January 21-26, 2018: Modules 3 & 6
Convene, 101 Park Ave., NYC
- International Summit, April 22-27, 2018: Tel Aviv & Jerusalem, ISRAEL
- Hana Yang (Class 20) documenting every woman in the venture industry
- Dave Goldberg (Class 22) interviewed for AlleyWatch’s “Inside the Mind of a New York VC”
- Karim Elsahy‘s (Class 18) Elves now a featured app on Facebook Messenger
- Vinnie Lauria (Class 17) quoted in TechCrunch article on SEA investment war
- Fundraising: Canaan Partners (Brent Ahrens, Class 5; Stephen Bloch, Class 7) closes new $800M fund
- This week’s blog selections: Stephen Straus (Class 2) blogs on the venture industry and startup scene in Austin, TX with 2 new posts
- Job opportunities:
(NEW) Kauffman Foundation seeks Senior Content Marketing Specialist
(CONTINUING) Frontline Ventures seeks Head of Platform • Catalina Labs looking for a senior UX developer
Hana Yang (Class 20) Documenting Every Woman in the Venture Industry
Hana Yang (Class 20), Venture and Technology Banker at First Republic Bank, is on a mission to document all of the women in the venture industry. She’s up to 856 in the US and 1,224 worldwide. Take a look at her Google spreadsheet. Do you have additions? Email Hana; you can also find her on Twitter @hanayang.
Dave Goldberg (Class 22) Interviewed for AlleyWatch’s “Inside the Mind of a New York VC”
AlleyWatch interviewed Dave Goldberg (Class 22), Principal at Corigin Ventures, at length for their “Inside the Mind of a New York VC” series. After starting out as an assistant DA, Dave left to try his hand at traditional finance’s wealth management, but “was never too interested in following the ‘standard playbook’.” He began building relationships with entrepreneurs, and found that he was “more interested in learning about their businesses and helping them.” When he stumbled across the concept of “collaborative consumption” before it was a buzzword (a.k.a. “the sharing economy”), he thought about what sort of venture he could start that would be relevant to his world of suit-and-tie-wearing white men. Thus his first company was born, FreshNeck, which he describes as “a collaborative consumption service for accessories: ties, bowties, pocket squares, cufflinks, a little bit of jewelry, and eventually watches—basically, the interchangeable items for the urban millennial.”
After a small exit in 2014, he shifted to “doing some consulting, working with the earliest of early-stage founders, often two founders and a pitch deck—maybe they’d have a product, maybe not.” That exposure to the VC world drew him in so strongly that he decided his “next startup would be building a venture firm from scratch.” That became Corigin, which he built around the question “What does the next generation of venture firms look like?” His answers so far include “looking backwards to understand what we’ve done well and haven’t done well and quantify it,” building “a much flatter hierarchy, where everyone gets exposure to a lot more aspects,” and, well, being young: “it’s very hard when the person writing the checks says, ‘Oh yea, I think my granddaughter uses that technology,’ versus having an investor who can invest in what they know.”
The interview goes on to cover topics such as how the LA ecosystem compares to NYC’s; why he recommends “industry deep dives” as an antidote to the reactive mindset he sees dominating VC; the value of a “chip on the shoulder”; and what hot trends he sees in 2017. Read the full story.
Karim Elsahy’s (Class 18) Elves Now a Featured App on Facebook Messenger
Karim Elsahy (Class 18) and his wife Abeer Elsisi were the subject of the Forbes feature article “How A Cairo Startup Used Facebook’s Messenger To Make $80,000 A Month.” The couple founded Cairo, Egypt-based Elves two years ago as a personal concierge service that differentiates itself by using a combination of bots and humans to deliver its services. Commenting on their unique interface strategy, Karim says, “There was a lot of hype around bots and then a little disappointment. … Pure bots are still failing a lot. It will eventually fail to understand your intent. Where we’ve gotten lucky or smart is using the humans.”
At its inception, human Elves were able to chat with 3-4 users at once; with the firm’s advances in AI since then, each human can interact with 25 users at the same time. Elves currently employs 40 people. The startup has been working thus far with $700K in angel funding; it is in the process of raising a $1.25M in a seed round. Karim and his wife chose to keep the firm’s HQ in Cairo, even as they have expanded, because the labor costs for skilled engineers is considerably lower in Egypt than elsewhere.
The big news of late is that Elves became a featured app on Facebook Messenger, which drives 30,000 hits per month to their service. This connection with Facebook means that now “Elves’ engineers have access to new features and code [that] Facebook’s engineers are creating.” When users in the Middle East launch Messenger, a plus-sign takes them directly to the Elves app.
Vinnie Lauria (Class 17) Quoted in TechCrunch Article on SEA Investment War
Vinnie Lauria (Class 17), founding partner at Golden Gate Ventures, contributed to TechCrunch’s “Alibaba and Tencent Are Carving Up Southeast Asia’s Startup Ecosystem.” To understand the opportunity SEA represents, consider that the region is already the world’s 4th largest Internet market, and according to a recent report, 3.8M new users enter the market every month. So it’s no wonder US tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter have become increasingly active in SEA. In 2016, Google acquired a Singapore-based chat messenger app in order to build out an engineering team dedicated to the region. Facebook and Twitter have been delving deep into Internet usage data in these “frontier markets.”
But their activity level pales in comparison to that of Chinese tech giants Tencent and Alibaba. “Through their investments and acquisitions, it’s very clear that Alibaba and Tencent are interested in Southeast Asia,” says Vinnie. Alibaba has shelled out a total of $2B for 83% of Lazada, an Amazon-like e-commerce company, and made deals across the region with four different FinTech startups and an online insurance site. Tencent has made its own investments, such as a Thai digital content startup, and is pursuing an additional strategy: investments in US companies like Smule (makers of a karaoke app) that are already strong in the region and have further expansion plans.
The challenge for regional startups looking for an exit is which company to choose—and the choice has consequences. Alibaba and Tencent are sworn enemies in China, where there are few companies that share the two as investors. In SEA, TechCrunch reports that “both Chinese giants had been in touch with a near-identical set of companies to make investment offers.” As Vinnie puts it, “They are clearly drawing lines in the sand with their checkbooks, and we can see a war of these two titans playing out across Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand.” Since a key part of any healthy startup ecosystem is a vibrant set of exit options, the heightened interest from outside companies is bound to spur further development.
Congratulations to Brent Ahrens (Class 5) and Stephen Bloch (Class 7), whose firm Canaan Partners closed its latest fund at a whopping $800M. This addition brings the firm’s AUM to $4.2B. Canaan targets early-stage investments across sectors, including FinTech, marketplaces, and enterprise software, as well as biopharma, oncology, and digital health. [Press release]
This week’s blog selections:
Stephen Straus (Class 2) has two new Medium.com blog posts, focused on the startup scene in Austin, TX: “The Austin Startup Diversity and Inclusion Pledge” and “Looking for Funds in All the Right Places: The Definitive Guide to Austin Capital.”
If you are a Fellow or Mentor and would like to post a job at your firm or portfolio company, please email us. Jobs are shown here for 4 weeks unless otherwise requested.
- (NEW) Kauffman Foundation seeks a Senior Content Marketing Specialist, who will be responsible for growing engaged entrepreneurial communities by driving traffic to the organization’s online programs and content. Read the full job description.
- (CONTINUING) Dublin, Ireland-based Frontline Ventures (Will Prendergast, Class 14; William McQuillan, Class 21; Shay Garvey, Mentor Class 21) is hiring a Head of Platform. Frontline Ventures is an early-stage firm focused on “European B2B companies with global ambitions.” The goal of this position is to manage and connect Frontline’s network of entrepreneurs, LPs, and co-investors “to ensure our portfolio of companies are learning faster than just the speed of experience.” Read the full job description.
- (CONTINUING) Gayathri Radhakrishnan (Class 16) is hiring a Senior UX Designer to join her team at Catalina Labs. This person will “lead the design direction for our product [Wixi] by placing the user at the center of the design process.” See the full job description online.
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