Steve Hall, Rock Star Venture Capitalist

Big thank you to Steve Hall for speaking at a pre-Snowpocalypse Rock Star Venture Capitalist on Tuesday, January 17. Steve brought a fresh perspective and practical advice in his “A VC’s Guide to Joining the Right Startup” presentation.

After a brief introduction, Steve jumped in with why joining a startup is like being a VC. In his view, both VCs and those thinking of joining a startup eed to look for the same things. Here are the highlights:

1 Execution over ideas.
Ideas do not make a great company, but execution does. Think Facebook, not Friendster.

2 Due diligence is critical.
Understand the market and the competition. If you are not willing to pay for the product or service, why would anyone else? There will always be gaps in due diligence, but minimize them.

3 “Know where the puck is going” ~ Wayne Gretzky
Some great local examples of Gist and Redfin. Be sure to join the company for what it will be tomorrow.

4 Understand valuation and stock option value
This resonated the most with me. Startups are typically not prepared to deal with sophisticated questions around valuation. If you are willing to take the risk, they should provide a picture of the value of options as compensation.

5 Diversify
Time is capital. Give an opportunity 2-3 years, if it is not there do not be afraid to cut your losses.

Thanks again, Steve, a true Rock Star!

Matt McIlwain, Rock Star Venture Capitalist

Matt McIlwain, Madrona Venture Group

Many, many thanks to Matt McIlwain for speaking at Rock Star Venture Capitalist on November 7. Matt has a reputation for bringing his “A game” and this was no exception. Approximately 65 people from cross-sections of UW and the Seattle startup community took in Matt’s observations of the ingredients of a successful entrepreneur.

The talk started out broadly setting the stage of innovation as a journey and how it is a critical part of the economy. The long term benefit is a ecosystem with network effects. Specifically, Microsoft beget Real Networks, Real Networks, ADIC, F5 and UW CSE helped beget Isilon and now Isilon has beget Clustrix and Corensic. Matt believes, as many here do, that Seattle is uniquely positioned to be not only as major tech hub, but one that can be bigger than Austin, Boston, Los Angeles and New York. The ecosystem and the entrepreneurs who thrive in the ecosystem are key.

Matt then detailed how there are 4 key ingredients of the successful entrepreneur:

1) Customer Focus
Sunny Gupta of Apptio is a great example of relentless customer focus. He understands not only value creation but also value capture.

2) Domain Passion
Glenn Kelman of Redfin is so passionate about the domain, even through he had no prior experience in it, that Redfin has seriously disrupted real estate. Check this 2008 Forbes article for how disruptive Redfin has been.

3) Curiosity
Andy Liu of BuddyTV personifies how entrepreneurs must dream and execute.

4) Humility
Brad Jefferson of Animoto is a prime example of not letting ego stand in the way of success. Animoto stopped and redesigned their architecture around the then newly emerging AWS platform.

Thanks again to Matt, a true Rock Star!