Category Archives: Funding

Early Stage Pitch Decks to Learn From

Canva posted an interesting collection of early stage pitch decks from 20 well-known companies. It is definitely worth checking out the list and seeing how they are presenting their market, product and opportunity.

Here’s the full post from Canva: http://bit.ly/2s94pHT

Featured startups are:

Intercom, AirBnB, Buffer, Front, Mixpanel, Youtube, Mattermark, SEOmoz, Ooomf, Crew, Linkedin, Foursquare, Wework, TouristEye, task.ly, Dwolla, Appnexus, Chewse, Mint, Kibin.

 

 

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The Little Startup That Could Have Been

While Dropbox and Box command the media attention and VC investment, Yousendit – the service that helped pioneer file sharing – is still alive and, for the time being, doing well.

The Year is 2004

Let’s go back to 2004 when Yousendit was launched. Sure, there was Kazaa, Gnutella, and others offering peer-to-peer file sharing, but if you wanted to send someone that huge Powerpoint or Photoshop file (without the risk of getting a virus) you didn’t have many options other than burning and mailing a CD.

At the time, your Hotmail account allowed you up to 2MB of file storage. You had to keep deleting old emails with attachments. Google’s newly released Gmail service giving 1GB of storage wouldn’t be publicly available until later in 2007 with about 2GB of storage (which would then prompt Yahoo to give unlimited storage to their Yahoo Mail users). And businesses running Microsoft Exchange servers limited users’ inbox size as well to maybe a couple hundred megs. I still remember our IT admin kept complaining that we were emailing files to each other too often and he needed more disk space.  And I got the “your mailbox is over its size limit” message every other week.

Enter Yousendit. The service allowed you to upload a big file, then email a link to whoever needed access. It was confidential (only the recipient with the link could download the file), fast (no attachments), and pretty affordable (files up to 5MB was free). Brilliant. Usage skyrocketed. What could go wrong?

The FORGOTTEN founder

I always wondered why Dropbox and Box, to name just two services, were able to become so successful so quickly while Yousendit seemed stuck in the past. Sure, Dropbox is not focused on file sharing per se, they promote “cloud storage”, but Yousendit could have taken the market leadership position easily. And only recently (2011) did they announce a “dropbox-like” feature giving unlimited cloud storage for their users. They already had the infrastructure, the product, the users. What happened?

My answers came in the form of a recent Inc Magazine article, The Forgotten Founder. It sheds some light into the company’s story, and helps explain why such a promising service was plagued with problems. Also shows how important it is to have a great team assembled and what mistakes we all should try to avoid. Was this the reason Yousendit didn’t evolve the service until now? I can’t say for certain but I bet it has a lot to do with it. Could Yousendit have become what Dropbox is today?

The future

Box and Dropbox are the darlings, attracting hundreds of millions in capital investment. But they are not alone… and there is always someone that can jump into this game and shake up the market. Check below a short list of similar file sharing / cloud storage services, their launch dates, and total VC investment in each company to date. Let’s see what happens next! 

File Sharing and cloud storage solutions

  • 2004: Yousendit ($48.7M)
  • 2004: SugarSync ($41.5M)
  • 2005: Mozy ($1.9M, acquired by EMC in 2007 for $76M)
  • 2006: Box ($159M)
  • 2006: Carbonite ($66M)
  • 2007: Dropbox ($257M)
  • 2007: Google Docs
  • 2007: Jungle Disk (Acquired by Rackspace in 2008)
  • 2007: Windows Live skydrive
  • 2008: Syncplicity ($2.35M)
Sources for the figures are Crunchbase and Wikipedia.
For a visual representation of the funding timeline for the key players, see the image below (click to enlarge).
Cloud Storage Funding Timeline

Funding timeline for key cloud storage players


You Are Right. VCs Don’t Know Shit.

On his blog, Lee Hower (one of LinkedIn founders) has an interesting post titled Making good decisions still means you are sometimes wrongin which he talks about the tough choices VCs have when deciding which startup to back. There are so many deals coming their way, they can’t possibly bet on every single one of them and identifying good opportunities, especially early stage, is really difficult.

I especially liked his link to Bessemer’s “anti-portfolio” web page where they show companies they declined to invest in and have great comments on why. Just goes to show that you shouldn’t feel bad after that meeting where the VC tells you the startup you have been working on and investing your life savings is not interesting to them. Maybe they are missing on the next eBay, Google, or PayPal. Just maybe. 😉

Cool Startups at Pitch San Francisco

Pitch San Francisco ’11 is now over. An interesting gathering of over 90 startups presenting their products and services to VCs and the public, ended with the following winners:

Congratulations!

More Cool Startups

But other startups are worth mentioning. For example:

  • DealAngel: Could potentially do for hotels what HipMunk did for air travel, DealAngel has a proprietary algorithm that statistically compares hotel deals in an area to tell you which ones are actually good deals in a beautiful display that makes it easy to spot hotels and the best deals. According to Co-Founder and COO Bob Rogers, Expedia, Orbitz and the usual travel sites are not completely transparent when it comes to presenting you with the best price and they are aiming at disrupting this market. If they can crack the code and present users with a better way of saving on travel, that’s a huge market potential.
  • Let’s Listen: Yet another music site? Not quite. Let’s Listen is unique because it allows you to listen to music with your friends, online. It basically allows you and your friends to share your music library, then select a song to play and everyone will listen to the song at the same time while chatting. Simple, yet powerful. At first I was skeptic, but after watching my 15-year-old niece chat with her friends on Skype for hours while listening to music, I’m sold. Worth checking out.
  • CheckInOnMe: Want simple tech that works? I was impressed with this service. Imagine you are a girl leaving that late night study session at the college library, preparing for tomorrow’s exam. Now you have to walk all the way through the parking lot to your car or bus station. You activate CheckInOn.Me and every few minutes you get a text checking in on you. If you reply to the text, everything is fine. If you fail to reply or you reply without using the correct pass phrase, the service will alert your friends and family (you decide who) that something is not right. Is simple SMS tech used in a clever way. The possibilities are many (families checking on their kids, realtors going to other people’s homes, even babysitters).

If you missed this year’s event, make sure to sign up for the next one!

Market Size: Either You Believe or You Don’t

The question that seems to be a deal killer, no matter what type of product you are building, is the market sizing one. It comes in various formats:

  • “What is the size of the market?”
  • “How big can this get?”
  • “What are the growth prospects?”

Among others, is a key question that often turns off potential investors. Especially if you can’t answer it “correctly”.  A nice post by Bryce Roberts titled “You can never size a market in Excel“tackles this pesky problem entrepreneurs face and gives sound advice:

“An investor’s instinct around something as fundamental as whether your business can reach the scale needed for venture capital returns is one that won’t be found scouring the latest market forecasts from Forester or Goldman Sachs. It won’t be found in endless meetings and it won’t be found in detailed financial forecasts or market sizing exercises.

It will be found in the connection an investor makes to you, your product and your vision. Either they will believe it or they won’t.”

It is a refreshing view on the question of market sizing. And also tells you a bit about how to assess whether the investor in question will be really a good match with your startup.

Check out the full article here.

Bootstrapping to Success

Rob Walling, from Micropreneur Academy, has a great post about successful startups that bootstrapped their way to becoming profitable. It’s a great list and nice tales that gives us bootstrappers more incentive to keep on going!

Check out “Ten Highly Successful Bootstrapped Startups” for the full article.

 

Avoid the Common Blunders When Pitching Investors

Probably not much new, but always a good “back to basics” kind of article that is a good refresher for new and seasoned startup founders a like.

Five Worst Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Pitching Angel Investors“, from Entrepreneur.com gives you the problems and the fix for each potential blunder:

Mistake No. 1: You don’t explain what problem your business solves.
The Fix: Share why customers will buy your product or service.

Mistake No. 2: You offer too many facts and numbers.
The Fix: Tell a story.

Mistake No. 3: You tout sales forecasts.
The Fix: Focus on the benefit your business offers customers.

Mistake No. 4: You’re too attached to your business plan.
The Fix: Embrace new revenue opportunities.

Mistake No. 5: You discuss ownership stakes.
The Fix: Save it for the follow-up.

Check out the full article, here.