Matt McCall Gives Venture Capital Investing Tips at Barcamp Chicago

As I’ve gotten to know Matt McCall more, I begin to appreciate his approach. He doesn’t fit the preconceived mold that many would think of when they picture the typical venture capitalist. He’s more of the “people’s VC”. He understands that he uncovers unique future management team talent, investment ideas and can contribute to the public relations success of his portfolio companies by attending and sponsoring events like Techcocktail and Barcamp Chicago. Each time I interact with Matt, I learn a little bit more about how the game is played and come closer to mastering it.

This past Sunday, Matt gave an informal speech during Barcamp Chicago. It was a great pleasure to see him talk in such unstructured detail. You may wish to see my past TiE entrepreneurs venture capital discussion panel writeup to learn more about Matt as he moderated an excellent panel back in 2006. Be sure to click through to the link of the full transcript in the Wiglaf Journal.

I was busy asking Matt questions during the talk. I noticed that John Mascarenhas was taking notes and invited John to be a guest blogger with his notes. John has been on the founding teams of three startups, including Fullaudio (Musicnow). John is looking for opportunities with early stage tech ventures including clean tech and has had experiences in strategy, business development, financial modeling, marketing and early sales roles – in operations and as consultant.

Here are John Mascarenhas’ guest blogging notes on Matt McCall’s talk on venture capital at Barcamp Chicago 2007:

Matt McCall, a partner with Draper Fisher Jurvetson Portage, speaks about venture capital. In the spirit of BARcamp, keeps his presentation informal and open, answering questions with the perspective and insight of an experienced investor in early stage technology.

Following are my notes, based more on what is interesting to me than attempting to cover everything that is said. [My comments are in brackets]

VC is right for a minority of start-ups – self-funded or angel investments are right for most tech start-ups. Remember the 10x rule. VC’s need every investment to have a potential for a 10x return, because of the high-risk nature of early stage investments.

Entrepreneurs should ask themselves:
1. Is my idea/nascent business a ‘business’, a ‘product’ or a ‘feature set’
2. How big is the pain I’m solving? Has anyone ever paid for this? (Evangelizing is tough.) Generally, either behavior or infrastructure drives the inflection point. (e.g., widespread broadband made web-video business viable) Who is paying and how much

Size the market from the bottom up. Need to know – we have sold or can sell this widget for $X to Y number of customers. Then, there are x thousand other target customers with the same needs/pain.

Matt likes pay for performance lead generation. Everyone is already trained to give you a cut. It’s not just ad dollars.
Harder models to make work are a) productivity gains…hard to quantify and b) cost savings. Hard to set a test and say here are the cost savings. For cost savings the best route is often outsourcing, so customers do not have to pay a lot of $ to get started

In response to a question, Matt discusses why NDA’s aren’t appropriate for a VC to sign. For example FeedBurner has been successful not because of a proprietary technology, but more because of the excellent customer experience.
1. They cycled very fast, improvements, great customer service.
2. they focused. One thing: syndication services for publishers

FeedBurner would continually iterate to keep ahead of the competition, and not let them get a foothold. The point is you have to know what the comp is doing, [and looking ahead to what could become a competitive advantage for them if you don’t focus on getting there first] Jonathan Wolter of Feedburner was here confirming and adding to what Matt says.

We’re in an era when tech is a commodity. Need to out-execute, and become a standard. (e.g. ruby on rails) User experience is the key. Simpler, no change in customer behavior. Michael Moritz, one of Silicon Valley’s most successful VC’s is highly focused on the user interface.

More advice for entrepreneurs from Matt:

Find teams that are plugged into the network they are dealing with:
– Shows in good understanding of the revenue model
– Shows in knowing your competition doing it now. (if vc asks you about it, don’t say they are no good…shows lack of diligence)
– Don’t quote Gartner etc…it’s meaningless (or worse) to a VC

Response to a question. As VCs use their network to poke around the market place and know more than what the entrepreneur said, that’s not a good sign. With FeedBurner, Matt and his team did early due diligence, checking around the space before investing. What they found confirmed what they were being told by the Feedburner team.

Responds to question asking why he invested in Viewpoints. Matt loves the idea of consumer reviews and re-syndicating it back out. Matt believes that Matt Moog will be continuing star in our region. They are proactively engaging communities and iterating quickly.

Thinking of Viewpoints and other opportunities, Matt talks about the growing model of consolidating content (like reviews) from pools, building community interaction, and re-syndicating that back out. As the Internet evolves, some of the major ways to monetize traffic evolved from banner ads, then search, then/now social networks. Matt thinks the 4th wave is interactive cascading of markets in IPTV, web, mobile etc…two way communication.

Pitch – business plan should be as detailed as you need it to be to get your thinking straight. For VC, 5-7 page summary and 25 or less slide presentation. VC’s all have ADD. Going to win or lose in the first 2-3 slides.
Funding Process: couple weeks to get meeting, few weeks, then one more pitch, then term sheet – then massive due diligence. 4-6 weeks. Assume 6-7 months from start of looking to closing on money.

Market research: loves to see this – we sell x product for x money or something similar for something close to x money. Go deep in a given vertical…how you productize and sell. That is how it works. Prove P, then give visibility on Q, in that vertical. Think in terms of Account worth = y heads $x per month…pipeline of next 100. Matt wants some visibility of how the company will get to $50MM or $100MM revenue.

Responding to a question – says focus will be on one vertical, but also look at analogs to show how you can move into other verticals.

Thanks again to John Mascarenhas for sharing his notes as a guest blogger in the section above.

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3 Responses to Matt McCall Gives Venture Capital Investing Tips at Barcamp Chicago

  1. Jason Jacobsohn June 26, 2007 at 10:16 pm #

    David and John, thanks for sharing these notes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it on Saturday. Matt is a great guy and shared some great insight into what VCs talk about. I would encourage you to read his blog, http://www.vcconfidential.com if you aren’t reading it already.

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