I am excited to announce the official launch of my personal blog for Maven.  I’ve been writing and blogging informally for many years and look forward to building a community of engaged readers curious about consumer startups and investing.  This first post is a brief synopsis of my career along with a few hints about what I hope to write about.  When you have a moment, feel free to watch my recent interview on Zana about consumer startups and growth hacking.

About Me and Maven Ventures

I’ve spent the last 20 years of my career as an entrepreneur in one capacity or another – a founder, executive, angel investor, attorney, mentor capitalist and venture capitalist. As an angel investor, I invested in and worked hands-on with about two companies a year, helping them raise outside funding and acting as an interim COO. I did that for five years and 50% of my investments have already been acquired by companies like Google and Intuit.  It worked so well that last year, I decided to launch the Maven Ventures Fund and Maven Ventures Growth Labs incubator in Palo Alto to scale the operations.

Prior to launching Maven, I was fortunate to play an early role in three ‘Unicorn’ ($1B+) exits/valuations: Bebo ($850M sale to AOL), Tango ($1B+ valuation) and NBCi ($6B IPO). I plan to use my blog as a place to share some of the many lessons I’ve learned over the years working with these companies, as well as other startups and entrepreneurs. My amazing Maven team & I evaluate over 2,500 startups each year for our 15 investments. In fact, it’s harder to get into the Maven Growth Labs than it is to get into Harvard or Stanford.  We meet so many great startups each day that I continually see many of the same patterns, problems, and roadblocks, and I will use this as an opportunity to share my learnings with you to help you on your journey.

A bit more about Maven: we are an incubator and Micro VC fund focused exclusively on consumer internet and mobile startups with hyper-growth potential. Since we work exclusively with early-stage (Seed or Series A) direct-to-consumer businesses with hyper-growth potential, we focus on what we know.  A third of our investments are part of our in-house incubator, so the founders work in our office and we spend time hands-on with them to shape their mission, vision, marketing, and early growth. To deliver impact to our incubator and portfolio companies, we’ve enlisted a group of 20 incredible growth mentors who spend time hands-on with the startups we invest in.

I look forward to sharing more about Maven, our mentors, my past experiences, and emerging consumer tech trends through this blog. Welcome!

I originally wrote this post in 2012 because many entrepreneurs asked me about my experience at Friendster.  Although a few years old now, the lessons still remain true today. The abridged version is shown below but to see the full text, be sure to read the original post.
  • Focus.  It’s critical for a startup to have a clear focus, especially early on!  Focus comes in many flavors.  One key area of focus is product-focus.
  • Product (ship new product fast & often).  A start-up must balance the need and desire to constantly innovate to stay interesting, fresh and ahead of the competition with the critical need to stay focused!
  • Performance.  The site must be fast!  Friendster made some early ‘bet the company’ issues on the product side that proved to be very costly.
  • Technology (& Good Luck).  Don’t experiment with the newest technologies when you have a fast growing startup!
  • Viral.  If the goal is to grow fast without spending a fortune, one must focus on viral features!
  • Customers.  Know Thy Customer!
  • Hiring.  You must hire A+ players!  There was a lot of pressure early on at Friendster to hire quickly, especially on the engineering team.  Friendster tried to hire too many people too quickly.
  • Leadership.  A start-up needs to have steady leadership, especially at the top!  Great leadership is required for companies’ success at any level.
  • Politics.  There’s no place for politics in a fast-moving startup.
  • Revenue.  Focus on the Product First, Revenue later!  This is a tough one for many start-ups and frankly not always the right call.