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Society News Update, 12 Jan. 2017

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Attention Fellows: Interviewers Needed

We ask for your help in the next 3 months to interview the great candidates that have been nominated by our Society for Class 22. Interviewers’ feedback strongly influences admission decisions, and each Fellow who interviews a candidate provides an important perspective. Please complete this form if you are able to assist, letting us know your availability during January–March. Your prompt response is much appreciated and will help us schedule candidates efficiently.


  • 25 Women in attendance for inaugural Women Fellows Breakfast
  • Wale Ayeni (Class 18) is noted speaker at 2016 Africa Technology Summit
  • Eric Wiesen (Class 13) moderated Post Seed 2016 panel of founder-CEOs
  • Jake Saper (Class 20) speaks on drones, and authors VentureBeat article on tech’s disruption of American society
  • Capital efficiency in startups is the name of the game for Susan Mason (Class 2) and Jodi Sherman Jahic (Class 5)
  • Geoffrey See (Class 21) profiled on Billionaire.com for his work with North Korean entrepreneurs
  • Victor Hwang (Class 12) lays out Kauffman Foundation’s new strategy and vision
  • Opportunity to be interviewed for Entrepreneur print magazine
  • Fellows on the Move: Lak Ananth (Class 12) • Rahul Ballal (Class 15)
  • Portfolio happenings: Robert Nelsen (Mentor Classes 4 & 16) and Charlotte Hubbert (Class 14) join together to create and fund Vir Biotechnology • Graham Gardner’s (Class 12) Kryuus chosen as the technology solution for Piedmont Healthcare system
  • This week’s blog selections: Gil Dibner (Class 13) has published a detailed, data-driven review of 2016 VC in Europe & Israel • Praveen Sahay (Class 8) discusses the contraction in the number of public tech companies • Samir Kaji (Class 20) examines the dramatic rise of Micro-VC firms in the last 4 years
  • Job opportunities: Northern TrustFrontline VenturesMP Healthcare Venture Management

25 Women in Attendance for Inaugural Women Fellows Breakfast

The inaugural Kauffman Women’s breakfast was held on November 1 in San Francisco, co-organized by Claire Tomkins (Class 15) and Hana Yang (Class 20), and co-sponsored by Kauffman Fellows and First Republic Bank.

There are currently 40 women Kauffman Fellows in the San Francisco Bay Area and 25 of them were in attendance; with a 63% attendance rate, it was one of the most well-attended Kauffman events in the history of the program! At the breakfast, Fellows got to meet and connect with at least 5 new faces, and engagement and interest levels for future gatherings was high; agendas and content for upcoming meetings are being mapped out (surveys to come your way shortly).

SAVE THE DATE: 1Q 2017 Kauffman Women Breakfast will be hosted by Susan Mason (Class 2) at Aligned Partners on Thursday, February 2, 2017. E-invites with details to come soon. If you don’t live in the Bay Area, but plan to be in town on February 2 and would like to attend, please email Jewel Savadelis.
Bay Area Women Breakfast

Wale Ayeni (Class 18) Is Noted Speaker at 2016 Africa Technology Summit

Africa Technology SummitWale Ayeni (Class 18) spoke at last month’s Africa Technology Summit, held in Lagos, Nigeria. The 2-day event is in its second year, drawing representatives from international powerhouses like Google, Uber, Vodacom, and Samsung, as well as a range of leading African entrepreneurs. Wale was part of a panel discussion on capital raising for African startups. One of his comments during the session was picked up by TechCabal in its article, “3 Things We Heard at the 2016 African Technology Summit.” In discussing the merits (or not) of early-stage tech startups in Africa raising venture capital, Wale said, “The best kind of money you can raise is from your customers.” A VC’s goals may not align with the founder’s goals, and with capital comes some loss of control. Wale points out that a better way to raise funds, and at the same time prove a startup’s worth and viability, is to have customers pay—to have revenue-generating business early on.

Eric Wiesen (Class 13) Moderated Post Seed 2016 Panel of Founder-CEOs

Eric Wiesen (Class 13), of Bullpen Capital, moderated a panel of founder-CEOs last month at the Post Seed 2016 event in San Francisco. The panelists discussed the reasons they chose to raise funds post-seed and how they navigated those waters. Companies represented on the panel included Jump Ramp Games, Grove Collaborative, Cleanify, Sharethrough, and Lumoid. Watch the full session:

Jake Saper (Class 20) Speaks on Drones, and Authors VentureBeat Article on Tech’s Disruption of American Society

Jake Saper (Class 20) was interviewed in Commercial UAV News in the article “How Software Developments Will Impact the Future of the Drone Industry,” after his speaking engagement at Drone World Expo on the panel “Finding Funding: The Community Speaks.” Jake believes that there is no clear consensus yet about what strategy will “win” in the drone space. He believes the hardware of prosumer drones will become commoditized over time and that the value-add will come in the software space. Winning firms will be those that can make the technology “push-button simple” for any user to deploy, and make the data from the drone easy to use and meaningful once collected. Jake’s advice to drone startups is to think not about what product they’re making; instead, they should consider, from the consumer’s perspective, what problem their product solves, what answers it can provide, and who it can provide them for. “If you’re a farmer, what you want is not a drone. What you want is an answer.”

VentureBeatAt the other end of the technology spectrum, Jake wrote an article in VentureBeat, “Tech is Disturbing American Society—Here’s What We Need to Do About It.” Changes in tech will continue displacing workers at an increasing rate, largely at lower-wage jobs. In the not-too-distant future, self-driving cars will start to eliminate the need for taxi drivers, truck drivers, and delivery drivers, for example. “The dislocation and anxiety it will produce,” says Jake, “will strain our society like few things before.” So what can tech do about it? Jake offers several ideas that the tech community can do in putting its own products to use in beginning to address the dislocation, and ends with this proposition: “I challenge techies to think about how to use our core asset, the things we build and the places we build them, to prevent further economic anxiety and division in this country.” Read the full story, and contribute your ideas to the conversation.

Capital Efficiency in Startups is the Name of the Game for Susan Mason (Class 2) and Jodi Sherman Jahic (Class 5)

Susan Mason (Class 2) and Jodi Sherman Jahic (Class 5) of Aligned Partners were interviewed in First Republic Bank’s “Client Spotlight” series, authored by Hana Yang (Class 20). The women discuss their firm’s emphasis on capital efficiency, and their focus on firms that do not need traditional levels of venture funding, which often starts around $25M. Aligned Partners’ strategy is to focus on tech companies with a real product and real customers (read: revenue) that are ready to scale up.  Once funded, they advise startups to direct spending toward things that yield actual revenue results and fully solve a limited problem or product, instead of, say, simply growing their customer base or building out a platform. The bottom line: why should they focus on capital efficiency? Susan: “Starting small and focusing on capital efficiency ensures founders can lay claim to a significant part of their companies so they’re owners, not employees.” Jodi: “You always have control of your destiny if you don’t need more cash.”

Geoffrey See (Class 21) Profiled on His Work with North Korean Entrepreneurs

In “The Non-Profit Helping North Koreans Launch Startups,“ Billionaire.com highlights Choson Exchange, an educational nonprofit founded by Geoffrey See (Class 21) to foster the North Korean entrepreneurial ecosystem. Choson Exchange brings business professionals, economic policymakers, and entrepreneur volunteers to North Korea to run workshops on business, economics, and law, reaching over 1,600 participants thus far. There is a limited but effective study-abroad component as well: Geoffrey says that the “more business-friendly regulations, such as those regarding Special Economic Zones and land-use laws, were introduced after participants engaged in the relevant study trips abroad.” To be sure, their work is not easy: some North Korean entities believe they have nothing to learn from the outside world, participants have very limited access to email and international calls, and there are a multitude of cultural barriers.

Current international tensions have made Choson’s work extremely difficult, impacting everything from fundraising to visa procurement. As a result, the organization is looking to change its structure and programs this year. Geoffrey says, “I am interested in Vietnam’s economic development and developing entrepreneurship ecosystem, and I want to see if there’s anything to be learnt from that experience that can be applied to North Korea.”

Victor Hwang (Class 12) Lays Out Kauffman Foundation’s New Strategy and Vision

Kauffman FoundationStartland News reported on the Kauffman Foundation’s roadmap for 2017 and beyond, citing Victor Hwang’s (Class 12) LinkedIn post, in which he introduces several new hires at the Foundation. Victor also lays out the Foundation goals to broaden its reach by expanding entrepreneurial education, building ecosystems, increasing access and diversity, and engaging ideas. The Foundation will be merging several of its disparate resources—FastTrac, 1 Million Cups, Founders School, and the entrepreneurship.com website—into one unified community. Additionally, the Foundation will be starting the work of “professionalizing the discipline of ecosystem-building” by gathering resources, data, and exemplary ideas from around the world into one “Kauffman Playbook” that will be “universally available, easily implementable for practitioners, and continually refreshed.” And to that end, the Foundation is hosting a June conference for ecosystem-builders, the ESHIP Summit.

Victor invites the entrepreneurial community to pitch in, too: “Kauffman can’t do it alone,” he writes. “We need your boldest ideas. We need your courageous experiments. We need your creative stretching. And we need your brave patience and good faith. Together, as Mr. Kauffman said, there is nothing we can’t conquer.”

Opportunity to be Interviewed for Entrepreneur Print Magazine

Entrepreneur LogoA number of Kauffman Fellows have been featured in digital and video pieces in Entrepreneur of late (see the full list in the following story). Kauffman Fellows has established a unique ongoing relationship with this media outlet, and Fellows now have the opportunity to be interviewed for a regular column in Entrepreneur magazine’s print version. The editors are looking for investors willing to share their thought process around choosing investments, working toward the magazine’s goal of presenting a range of investor types in order to help entrepreneurs. Questions for investors featured in the column are as follows:

  • What got you to say yes to three recent investments?
  • What did an entrepreneur do to impress?
  • How did the connection first happen, and what specific thing finally put the investor into the “yes” column?

If you are interested in being interviewed, please contact Rusty Dornin (rdornin@kfp.org) for an introduction to the writers at Entrepreneur.

Fellows on the Move

  • Lak Ananth (Class 12) has moved from Hewlett Packard Enterprise to head up Siemens’ new startup unit, next47. The unit was founded late last year to “foster disruptive ideas more vigorously and to accelerate the development of new technologies.” Siemens will pool its existing startup activities into this new unit (whose name plays off of the company’s original founding in 1847), and it will have funding of €1 billion for the first five years. Siegfried Russwurm, Siemens’ CTO and a member of the Managing Board, says, “Lak has many years of experience in helping recently founded companies get off the ground and in the strategic development of business models—and that’s exactly what we need for our new next47 unit.” [Press release] Watch an interview here about how Lak plans to approach this new challenge and his vision for next47.
  • Rahul Ballal (Class 15) is an entrepreneur-in-residence in the Boston office of Versant Ventures, and also serves as Chief Business Officer of Versant-backed Northern Biologics. Rahul joined Versant in 2016 to strengthen the firm’s access to the major academic centers in the Boston area and, working in conjunction with the firm’s New York team, has helped create a broader presence for Versant in the Northeast. [Press release]

Portfolio Happenings

  • Vir Biotechnology is a new startup developing treatments for infectious diseases, a space with high global need and remarkably few players. The concept for the company—”to apply ‘immune programming’ to the discovery of new infectious disease treatments [and] … manipulate the way that pathogens and hosts interact”—came from Robert Nelsen (Mentor Classes 4 & 16) of ARCH Venture Partners. Charlotte Hubbert (Class 14), head of venture investing at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Robert were the lead investors on the deal, and ARCH has announced its $150M commitment to the firm. George Scangos, former head of Biogen, will be the new company’s CEO. Speaking about this sector, Scangos says, “If you look at the chronic TB and other infectious diseases, we’re talking about hundreds of millions of people. There’s a huge medical need. There is an incredible opportunity.” [Xconomy San Francisco article] [Forbes article]
  • Graham Gardner’s (Class 12) firm, Kryuus, was chosen by Georgia-based Piedmont Healthcare to be its technology solution for patient scheduling and provider data management. Piedmont Healthcare is a not-for-profit, 7-hospital system that serves nearly 2 million members. Discussing its selection of Kryuus, the health system’s CEO said, “Kyruus was unique in its ability to provide us with full visibility into our provider network and a solution that would enable us to keep our provider data up-to-date over time.” [Press release]

This week’s blog selections:

  • Gil Dibner (Class 13) has released an in-depth, data-driven review of VC investment trends in Europe and Israel in 2016,”Venture Capital in Europe & Israel—Venture Investment Data: 2016 Year in Review.” View or download the report from his blog.
  • In “Why Dow 20,000 Is So Boring,” Praveen Sahay (Class 8) discusses the contraction in the number of public tech companies in the last 20 years and the decline in participation among the broader public in tech company ownership.
  • Samir Kaji (Class 20) examines the dramatic rise of seed VC (Micro-VC) firms in the last 4 years, and evaluates the pros and cons of what this means for the funding market in, “So, You Want to Start a VC Firm?

Job Opportunities

Several job opportunities have been sent in by Fellows; see below for details. Jobs are removed from this list after 4 weeks. Browse back-issues of Society News if you’re looking for an older job post. If you are a Fellow or Mentor and would like to re-post your job, please email us.

  • Trey Hart (Class 20), SVP at 50 South Capital Advisors, reports via Twitter that he’s looking for a Senior Associate, Private Equity for his team in Chicago, IL. This person will focus on the U.S. buyout space, be responsible for due diligence, analyzing historical performance of investments, monitoring and analyzing portfolio performance, and participating in fundraising initiatives. See the Northern Trust website for full details and application information.
  • Will Prendergast (Class 14), Partner at Frontline Ventures in Dublin, Ireland, announced that his firm is hiring a part-time CFO. Job duties include quarterly reporting to investors, investor relations, treasury, regulatory compliance, and advising portfolio companies on best practices. Candidate must have Chartered Accountancy Qualification, 5+ years in the industry, and some knowledge of corporate law. The job is expected to be part-time for 2-3 years, growing to full-time as the firm expands. Read the full job description and application information on LinkedIn.
  • MP Healthcare Venture Management (MPH), the VC group for Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp, invests in research-driven biotech companies in the United States and Europe. They are looking for an Associate to work in their Boston headquarters. The preferred candidate is bright, ambitious, and has a strong technical background (PhD or MD), with some exposure to biotech. Prior VC experience is not required. The Associate will be a key member of the team, with a variety of responsibilities that will grow with experience, including identifying and evaluating new investment opportunities and serving as the key contact for multiple portfolio companies. Please send all enquiries to Jeffrey Moore (Class 10), jeffrey_moore@mp-healthcare.com. [Full job description PDF]

Do you have a news story to share? Please email us: news@kfp.org.

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