Back-channeling can be a sensitive process, especially for candidates who are job-seeking under the radar, so it’s important to think carefully about who you ask and how you ask things. You’re looking for the real story on an operator’s past performance, but you don’t want to get too invested in one person’s feedback. For that reason, you should seek multiple perspectives and stay as open-minded and objective as possible.
One of the easiest investment decisions I ever made was backing Steve Ellis when he founded WhoSay. A few years ago, Steve sold Pump Audio - where I had led a seed financing - to Getty Images in a deal that generated the first meaningful exit for the firm I had co-founded. Over the course of Pump Audio, Steve had proven himself an exceptionally gifted entrepreneur and, equally important, an exceptional human being. When the Pump deal closed, I told him he had a desk and a blank check waiting for him whenever he was ready. Today, that decision has paid off, with the announcement of WhoSay’s acquisition by Viacom.
D2C activity was up from Q3, with a number of health and wellness brands emerging onto the scene. But it’s the enterprise SaaS platforms that continue to drive the most activity. Q4 saw new SaaS platforms take their own spin on digital marketing, cryptocurrency, HR, and tailored infrastructure solutions.
In a year that held no shortage of dramatic twists and turns on the national and international stages, NYC’s seed market came to its own interesting conclusion. In Q4, the city saw just 26 seed deals, a figure down 33% from Q3 and 38% from this time last year. Despite this drop, however, total funding came in at a healthy $53 million, increasing average check size to $2 million - up 11% over last quarter, and 25% over Q4 2016.
As seed investors, many of the deals we pass on are driven 100% by how we feel about the team. At such an early stage in a company’s life - often before there’s a real business to speak of - there are very few metrics to quantify, no material tires yet to kick. What we’re left with is our conviction about the founders and their overarching vision for the business and the market as a whole. So for founders who have faced the hard-to-explain “No”, here’s the hard truth: A VC has to fall in love with you in order to put real dollars behind a company that has yet to prove itself.
Bobby Guelich is no stranger to taking risks. After beginning his career at mega hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, he headed west to attend Stanford University’s prestigious Graduate School of Business. He spent his summer interning at Oscar, when the company was still in its nascent stage and had only a handful of employees. As his internship came to a close, he met with the CEO, who asked him to join the team permanently. After a significant amount of soul-searching, Bobby realized that given the team he’d be working with, and the company’s mission, this was a no-brainer.
Trust issues in the workplace are at an all-time high. It seems like the tech industry is plagued by scandal after scandal, and employee turnover is on the rise. Although conflict resolution, mentorship, and issues with management have always been tricky to navigate, in this charged environment employers realize there has never been a more important time to provide employees with resources to address these challenges.
The NGC tradition in the city has always been especially strong, considering New York's stature as the retail capital of the world. After all, with the city's dense concentration of diverse needs, interests, and customers, there’s plenty of opportunity for businesses to step up and fill those needs in new and innovative ways. Today, NGC companies make up over 30% of NYC-based companies valued at over $100 million.