Silicon Beach Startups Meetup Recap: VC Insight, FANG Advisors Rule

Recap of August 5th, 2018, meetup of the New Tech startups chapter in Santa Monica

By Robin Rowe

Santa Monica New Tech #200

Robin Rowe at New Tech meetup #200

Santa Monica, CA (Venture Hollywood) 2018/8/6 – At this week’s startups meetup I enjoyed a stimulating conversation with a couple venture capitalists. Many VC investors tell me teams are a deciding factor. We were discussing startup investing and why investors rely so much on the team slide of a pitch deck when making a decision. One VC surprised me by bluntly stating, “I don’t care about ideas.” To him, the horse is irrelevant. Not even the jockey matters much. It’s all about having significant tech advisors, that the VC trusts them on the technology.

A tech-no-nothing approach makes sense, in a way, when the investor has no experience or expertise in technology. It’s easy to assume when pitching to high tech investors that they would know something about technology. However, an investor who comes from a conventional MBA, investment banking or real estate investing background may know nothing at all about tech, even seem contemptuous of science. Startups need to understand this when pitching. Ask yourself, who are my FANG advisors?

So how does a high tech investor who knows nothing about high tech vet a high tech expert? Easy. Based on the advisor’s company’s tech stock value, on FANG, that is, being Facebook, Apple/Amazon, Netflix or Google. Such investors believe FANG tech experts must be best because market cap determines everything.

Driven by market demand, recruiters are seeing startups ask for FANG-only job candidates, that FANG is becoming the new PhD. However, a FANG-based approach inherently limits diversity.

During Q&A of a VC panel I moderated at the USC Innovation Conference back in January, a female CEO objected that the VCs on my panel were all white guys. My panel admitted they invested mainly in other rich white males, but objected to being judged as enforcing white privilege. In a business where trust matters, they are simply investing in the people they know. Most Silicon Valley investors do not know, for example, any successful African American single mother startup founders.

I was caught in a similar situation during my selection of that VC panel. I had deliberately invited a diverse panel, but the VCs who said yes all looked alike. For my VC panel, I didn’t get any diversity VCs to come in spite of seeking them out. Diversity can be hard to achieve. We must try harder.

For fun I lead the weekly New Tech Open Coffee meetup, a great place to meet people active in startups. Every Sunday at 10am. Special thanks to Panera Bread for hosting us. Below are highlights of the introductions from this week’s participants…

  1. Robin (that’s me): Of Venture Hollywood fame, about to launch cc:later.
  2. Phil: Interstate Venture Capital, series A.
  3. Tony: 5G, 3D, Linux mobile phone startup.
  4. Mark: Phone game, presented at our July pitchfest.
  5. Ihar: Vegan lifestyle conversion app. Day job at mobile gameco.
  6. Michael: Bored working at a big company. Seeking a startup to join.
  7. Alex: Engineering student interested in hardware. Will be job seeking soon.
  8. Carmel: Single mothers co-housing CoAbode.com. Seeking funding and a COO. Great website, but not generating revenue yet.
  9. Fernando: Organizer of energy tech conference for Latin America
  10. Ralf: One of the New Tech organizers. NextPitch, a crowdfunding series in the genre of Shark Tank. Japanese partners, so now focusing on developing in Japan. Lived in Japan for two years.
  11. Brian: Crosscut Ventures associate. $500k to $1M, market agnostic. Former investment banker. Criteria… Enterprise: sales. Consumer: growth/retention. Tech: great advisers, proof of concept.
  12. Ariel: Tax CPA at PDM.
  13. Douglas: Social net app.
  14. Luke: Scrubs and lab coats supply biz.
  15. Steve: Prodco and digital marketing.
  16. Scott: TCA investor. Organ donor app.
  17. Nick: Tech analyst.
  18. Ivy: UCI student. DTLA full stack General  Assembly student.
  19. Dustin: IP attorney.
  20. Logan: UCSB recent grad.
  21. Tim: Founded and sold popular LGBT website.
  22. Neeraj: Freshbites restaurant app. Seeking VP sales.
  23. Laurence: Token.ai. Private token sale underway.
  24. JT: One of the New Tech organizers. Leads generation company Global Residency.

It’s a knights of the round table type of event. There is no presentation. The first hour we go around the table with each person introducing himself or herself, with an emphasis on what he or she is trying to accomplish and how the group may be able to help. The second hour is networking.

With 31,000 members across three active chapters in Santa Monica, London and Paris, New Tech is one of the largest associations on Meetup.com. Our Open Coffee event focuses on networking, is more accessible for meeting new people than the larger New Tech event that’s a monthly pitchfest.

To contact Robin Rowe, that’s me, the easiest way is to connect with me on LinkedIn. My background… Startups studio Venture Hollywood, innovation provider to Fortune 500 companies, C++ expert, Fortune 500 innovation lab director, DARPA PI, navy research scientist, NBC-TV technical director of broadcast news, and taught computer science at two universities.

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