Network Updates, 27 June 2017
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Log into TENx for complete details and RSVP information for all KF events, unless noted.
- July 15: Fellows Picnic / Family Day
- 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
- December 8: NY Regional Chapter breakfast
- International Summit, April 22-27, 2018: Tel Aviv & Jerusalem, ISRAEL
- Trae Vassallo (Class 10), Reid Hoffman (Mentor Class 16), and Juliana Garaizar (Class 18) speak up about gender diversity, respect, and next steps
- Collin West (Class 17) kicks off new VCJ video series
- Yanev Suissa (Class 16) knows where the new American Tech Council should start
- Bob More (Class 2) Offers “Do’s and Don’ts” for Startup Boards
- Claire Tomkins (Class 15) tells Forbes why she took on the fertility sector
- Jen Fonstad (Class 3) wants to help women network
- On the move: Tanguy Chau (Class 20) has joined Mayfield Fund
- Portfolio happenings: Trae Vassallo (Class 10) invests in Petasense • TEXO Ventures (Randall Crowder, Class 15) invests in BetterDoctor • Dixon Doll (Mentor Class 15) to join board of Out There Media • Zaid Ashai‘s (Class 13) Nexamp announced latest 700kW community solar installation
- Podcasts & speakers: Bryan Roberts (Class 3) interviews Steve Papa on latest Venrock podcast • Lak Ananth (Class 12) was the opening speaker at Future of Innovation: Spotlight on AI conference • Victor Hwang (Class 12) took center stage at ESHIP Summit • watch Daniel Kraft‘s (Class 13) talk at the Aspen Ideas Festival
- This week’s blog selections: Andris K. Berzins (Class 22) reflects on the beginning of his Kauffman Fellowship • Victor Gutwein (Class 22) continues his Micro-VC series
- Job opportunities: (CONTINUING) Nexamp seeks assistant general counsel • StartX Accelerator applications open through July 2
Trae Vassallo (Class 10), Reid Hoffman (Mentor Class 16), and Juliana Garaizar (Class 18) Speak Up About Gender Diversity, Respect, and Next Steps
Trae Vassallo’s (Class 10) Medium post, “Silicon Valley’s Overdue Cultural Pivot,” was prompted by this week’s two headline events: Travis Kalanick’s being forced out of Uber, and the harassment allegations against (and subsequent resignation of) Justin Caldbeck from Binary Capital. Trae discusses the “transforming social conscience” she hopes the business world is starting to develop, as evidenced by the concrete actions taken in these two cases.
As we wrote last year, Trae’s “Elephant in the Valley” report revealed that sexual harassment in the Silicon Valley workplace is endemic, with 60% of the senior-level women surveyed reporting unwanted sexual advances, typically from a manager. Lack of reporting is prevalent, with women fearing for their own jobs and reputation if they do; says Trae, “Retaliation is very real.” She believes that the week’s events reveal that “behaviors that previously were swept under the rug in favor of profits and returns are now being called out by incredibly brave people,” and profoundly thanks the women who have come forward and put their careers on the line in doing so.
Joining Trae in this commentary, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (Mentor Class 16) wrote “The Human Rights of Women Entrepreneurs” this week, specifically addressing the Binary Capital revelations and offering his unwavering support to Justin Caldbeck’s accusers: “This is entirely immoral and outrageous behavior. And it falls to us to stand with you, to speak out, and to act.” In his list of concrete steps that the VC community can take to fix this culture, Reid says,
Any VC who agrees that this is a serious issue that deserves zero tolerance—and I certainly hope most do think this way—should stop doing business with VCs who engage in this behavior. LPs should stop investing. Entrepreneurs of all genders should stop considering those VCs. This behavior occurs in our industry not just because some believe it’s no big deal, but also because those who do find it unacceptable don’t do enough to actively discourage it.
Kauffman Fellows couldn’t agree more.
Juliana Garaizar (Class 18) is another Kauffman Fellow working to change the status quo. She invites the KF Network, and particularly the men reading this, to join an Impact Seat webinar, “Men’s Work Webinar,” tomorrow, June 28, 1pm Eastern/10am Pacific. The seminar recognizes that “too often, inclusion efforts are left to the underrepresented community members to champion. … It’s essential that men are not just engaged in creating inclusion, but that they step forward as diversity and inclusion leaders. Many men want to be champions, but they need the tools, strategies, and language to do so.” Read The Impact Seat’s post, “Diversity and Inclusion Efforts: Why Do They Often Exclude White Men?” for an innovative approach to including more straight white men in diversity and inclusion efforts.
For those reading this who feel like Reid Hoffman, here’s a chance to put your feelings and beliefs into action. Register now.
Collin West (Class 17) Kicks Off New VCJ Video Series
In partnership with Venture Capital Journal, Kauffman Fellows is launching a new video series with “Is Venture Investing an Art or a Science?” from Collin West (Class 17), a venture partner at Kauffman Fellows. Collin discusses the investment approach that the new generation of investors is taking: one that calls for a reliance on data rather than on experience and intuition. Compared to these historical drivers of investment decision-making, the new approach will reduce subjective bias and move the diversity needle.
Yanev Suissa (Class 16) Knows Where the New American Tech Council Should Start
Yanev Suissa (Class 16), founder of SineWave Ventures, offers advice on “How the President’s American Tech Council Should Tackle Reforming Government Tech” in a TechCrunch article. The American Technology Council (ATC) was created in April to improve “the Federal Government’s use of information technology and the delivery of services” through that technology. Yanev highlights three examples of federal departments struggling to get by with decades-old technology: the Department of Veterans Affairs (spends 75% of tech budget maintaining legacy software), FAA air traffic control (still uses paper strips to monitor flight status and hand off between people), and the Air Force’s ICBM missile launch process (still runs on floppy disks). Of the topics to be discussed in the ATC’s upcoming first meeting, he thinks the greatest challenges are “1) deploying innovative technology to solve long-standing government problems and 2) solving the procurement problem. … You can only deploy the new technologies if you can procure them.”
Yanev recommends five “bureaucracy hacking” best practices for the council to consider, starting with streamlining the famously inefficient federal procurement process and culminating with on-the-ground execution by an experienced team: “Ideas are nice, but change is better.” Yanev stresses the importance of motivating rank-and-file civil servants—through respect and proper incentives—to make full use of the new systems. [Read the ATC executive order]
Bob More (Class 2) Offers “Do’s and Don’ts” for Startup Boards
Bob More (Class 2), Managing Director at Alta Partners, offers his list of “Do’s and Don’ts for Startup Boards” for the Timmerman Report. While every board and every corporate situation is different, there are some guiding principles that should be applied most of the time when serving on a board. Bob emphasizes that “the main job is to hire and fire the CEO and provide oversight.” He covers topics such as the value of confidentiality, appropriate communication, and unity, as well as creating an effective and consistent template for presentations and reports (“If it takes the team more than a day or two to put it together, that is a waste of time”).
To the board’s compensation committee, Bob says: “Set annual goals annually and stick to them. Do not be lazy and kick the can down the road, and do not use a rubber ruler and change them just because the team gave a valiant effort. Really stick to your bonus goals, and pay the bonuses on time.”
Running through the article is a theme familiar to Kauffman Fellows: the importance of “the people side of this business”—kindness, respect, support, and appreciation. In the end, board members are dependent on the company’s employees, so Bob urges: “We need to do anything we can do to support and recognize the people actually doing the work and creating the value.” [Subscribe to the Timmerman Report for full article access]
Claire Tomkins (Class 15) Tells Forbes Why She Took on the Fertility Sector
Claire Tomkins (Class 15), CEO and co-founder of Future Family, was featured by Forbes in “How a Professional Women’s Group Jumpstarted This Fertility Care Company,” as part of the firm’s official launch. Of the egg-freezing services Future Family offers, Claire says, “We’ve developed a finance model to make it affordable and a concierge care platform to make it accessible.” The percentage of women giving birth for the first time between ages 35 and 39 has quintupled since 1970; the percentage between ages 40 and 44 has also risen, though not so dramatically. Because human eggs are created at the beginning of life and age along with the rest of women’s bodies, complications are more likely for older mothers. Infertility is perhaps the most common, and as Claire points out, “Fertility care is extremely expensive and difficult to access,” which essentially restricts IVF to the top few percent of earners in this country.
Future Family is a personal venture for Claire, motivated by “the pain, isolation, and sheer expense of six rounds of IVF and three miscarriages” she endured en route to her daughter’s birth. In starting the firm, she realized that she could draw on her previous experience at SolarCity: changing fertility care from something that’s “extremely expensive and difficult to access”—as solar power was a decade ago—into a business with “a finance model to make it affordable and a concierge care platform to make it accessible,” as rooftop solar is today. Future Family offers financing for “women and couples so that they can choose affordable monthly payments instead of a big upfront cost. [They’re] also providing a service platform in place of a DIY approach.” [Read Claire’s HuffPost article] [Press release]
Jen Fonstad (Class 3) Wants to Help Women Network
Jen Fonstad (Class 3), Founding Partner at Aspect Ventures, participated in the Catalyst Conference in San Francisco. VentureBeat reported on her fireside chat in “Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Ask When It Comes to Networking.” Jen believes that the “‘good old boy network’ is a self-perpetuating phenomenon” because men are better prepared to network—and she wants to change that. Her experience has taught her that “mentoring is not a one-way street”; she advises building a network without a specific “ask,” and waiting until a real need arises before seeking help. Other advice includes not just attending networking events but organizing them, which will lead people to “think of you as someone to invite.”
The conference, described as “three incredible days of raw, gritty, authentic ‘TEDx-style’ presentations from some of the most revered women in tech, business and leadership,” was produced by Girls in Tech, a nonprofit group supporting women in tech with over 60,000 members around the world.
On the move:
Tanguy Chau (Class 20) is now a Venture Investor at early-stage Mayfield Fund, focused on the enterprise sector. Mayfield Managing Director Nevin Chadha writes, “Tanguy brings the unrelenting grit, big heart and curious intellect we seek in the entrepreneurs we partner with.” [Mayfield’s announcement on LinkedIn]
- Angel investor Trae Vassallo (Class 10) participated in industrial IoT startup Petasense’s second seed round of $1.8M as the firm emerged from stealth. Petasense’s initial product is a wireless vibration sensor which, combined with machine learning, enables customers to monitor the health of their industrial machinery and “detect imminent machine failures before they occur,” because changes in machine vibration patterns often signal impending trouble. Accurate predictive maintenance promises to significantly reduce unplanned downtime as well as unnecessary preventive maintenance. Trae was also part of Petasense’s first seed round in 2015. [Press release]
- Randall Crowder’s (Class 15) TEXO Ventures was one of five investors in medtech company BetterDoctor’s $11M Series B. BetterDoctor’s goal is to fix a “persistent data problem” in the US healthcare system: the lack of standardized, accurate, complete information on health providers, without which it is difficult to determine the best provider for a given case. The firm’s data validation engine “proactively connects directly with over 500,000 providers and makes sure that their information is correct.” The funding will enable national expansion, as well as faster product development and additional hiring. [Press release]
- Dixon Doll (Mentor Class 15) will join the board after investing in Out There Media (OTM), a Vienna-based mobile data monetization provider. The firm’s Mobucks™ platform enables global brands such as Unilever, Coca Cola, and Procter & Gamble to run “‘micro-targeted,’ interactive mobile advertising campaigns at scale.” Dixon believes OTM “will challenge and disrupt many of the traditional digital advertising players we’re all familiar with.” [Press release]
- Zaid Ashai’s (Class 13) community solar company Nexamp announced its newest, 700kW facility in Fitchburg, MA. Recognizing that a variety of factors can prevent residents and small businesses from installing solar panels on their properties, Nexamp’s Solarize My Bill™ program allows customers to reduce their electrical bills by subscribing to a solar installation. Zaid highlights the importance of net metering, which “enables Nexamp to expand solar access to previously underserved customers while supporting the local economy.” [Press release] See the “Jobs” section below; Nexamp is looking for an Asst. General Counsel.
Podcasts & speakers:
- Bryan Roberts’s (Class 3) latest Venrock podcast episode, “I Don’t Like Hype,” features an interview with Steve Papa, founder and CEO of Parallel Wireless. The two discuss what Papa learned about “perseverance and grit” from his experience with Endeca from its founding in 1999 to its sale to Oracle in 2011. [Listen in iTunes]
- Lak Ananth (Class 12), Managing Partner of next47, the startup unit of Siemens, was the opening speaker at the “Future of Innovation: Spotlight on AI” conference, which set out to “explore the vast promises of this technology revolution and how tech companies are using AI and machine learning to accelerate innovation.”
- Victor Hwang (Class 12), Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, took center stage at the Kauffman Foundation’s ESHIP Summit last week. Our favorite Twitter quote from the event: “We are here to reinvent the economy as we know it.”
- Daniel Kraft (Class 13) spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival about the state of the “sick care system” in the US, how we can all play a role in reshaping it, and what’s coming in “exponential medicine.”
This week’s blog selections:
- Andris K. Berzins (Class 22) offers three “Reflections on Commencing the Kauffman Fellows Program”: strong, valuable relationships will bring more success than aggressive negotiation; when working in areas outside Silicon Valley or top global cities, try to level the playing field; and giving back to society is important for investing success.
- Victor Gutwein (Class 22) continues his series on early-stage micro-VC investing with “Smaller, Earlier VCs Should Invest Differently Part Two: Portfolio Variance.” Victor discusses a model he’s built to estimate the risks and rewards of a given portfolio, and uses it to illustrate that in order to achieve the same level of risk as a Series A firm, a Seed firm needs to have several times more companies in its portfolio.
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.
- Zaid Ashai (Class 13) announced on LinkedIn that his firm, commercial solar developer Nexamp, is looking to hire an assistant general counsel. See the Nexamp website for details.
- Suzanne Fletcher (Class 21), Fund Manager of StartX, has announced that applications are open now through July 2 for the next StartX accelerator class.
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