FundlessFund Hijacks My Blog Today

Posted on January 18, 2010. Filed under: startups, venture capital | Tags: , , , , |

Since my blogpost on Friday introducing The Fundless Fund (FundlessFund@Gmail.com), a lot of folks have stepped up with interest in contributing to the Fund, and a lot of folks have been asking exactly what The Fundless Fund is….the short answer is…The Fundless Fund seeks to add as much value to the growth and development of early stage companies as a Y Combinator or seed stage investor, without any equity or payment in return…it’s an accelerant powered by fellow entrepreneurs, created in the vein of furtherance of our collective effort.

Based on the response I’ve seen so far, it seems like there are a bunch of related parties (investors, lawyers, accountants, established companies) that would like to pitch in.  That will be awesome for our “fund”, we just need to figure out exactly how to incorporate these parties into the mix without diluting one of the main values of The Fundless Fund, which is a complete alignment of incentives between the Fund and our entrepreneurs.  What I don’t want this to become is another “me too” organization sponsored by Sillicon Valley Bank or some law firm who’s primary purpose is simply to get a bunch of decision makers together in the same room (a room that happens to don the banners of those service providers).  I also have no interest in recruiting the 5 sexiest names I can get to sit on a panel, inviting a bunch of people to listen to a dog and pony show, and then prove to the 400 people who attend that my platform is strong enough to get 5 sexy people and 400 others to attend my event.  Rather, The Fundless Fund will take those 5 sexy people who are willing to donate an hour to our platform, identify the 5 most promising entrepreneurs who will benefit from an hour of their time, and we will use our “bullet” with those sexy people to get the 5 entrepreneurs into 1 on 1 meetings where progress can actually be made.  There is a place for networking events, and those groups and events are undoubtedly adding value to the New York Startup Ecosystem, but that is a saturated market that we’re not interested in playing in.

What we’re interested in doing is focusing a ton of high quality resources and attention on a much smaller number of people/companies…our goal is not to generate as much deal flow as possible, or to build the biggest community of NYC startup people…it’s rather to identify the brightest stars (whether first time or experienced) in our community and give them a leg up on fundraising, recruiting, and job search (if they’re not yet with a startup), all the while focused on a general transference of knowledge across the fund.  We want to help the best of the best to not get lost in the shuffle and noise of a not-fully-networked New York Startup community.  Why? Because it is our belief that those people with the most potential will build the biggest, most sustainable companies in the long run (but not without help).  Our city needs to birth a few multibillion public technology companies to cement an enduring infrastructure around this burgeoning startup energy, and it is our responsibility as entrepreneurs to maximize the likelihood of that occurrence.  Our fund is not a flash in the pan, looking for the next deal to bank/lawyer/account/invest in.  We have a long term view of this city’s ecosystem and we’re going to do our part to make it as easy as possible for resources (capital, talent, advice) to find the stars that are going to build New York’s homegrown Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc…

There’s a lot of plumbing that still needs to be worked through, but we’re off to a good start.  What you can do today to participate is as follows:

If you’re a startup/pre-startup that has raised less than $500K in the New York area, there are 2 actions for you to take today:

1)      Email fundlessfund@gmail.com with a short description of you’re company or future company, a link to some online public presence (site if you have one, linkedin profile, blog, etc…), and a brief description of your needs:

  1. People: (description of hires you’re trying to make)
  2. Capital: (no details needed, just are you going to need to raise money in the next 6 months)
  3. Advice: (general guidance and mentorship)

2)      Email fundlessfund@gmail.com and request to be added to our distribution list.  Even if you’re not in a position to join the fund’s portfolio today, stay connected and we’ll keep you up to date on how the fund is evolving and the best ways to get involved.

If you’re a venture/angel-backed entrepreneur or if you used to be and can still speak to the experience, and you’d like to be involved in the operations of the FundlessFund (i.e. sit on the “investment committee,” donate your time to meeting with applicants and accepted people/companies, etc…):

1)      Email fundlessfund@gmail.com with a link to some public presence online and description of what type of value/resources you’d like to contribute:

  1. Introductions to investors
    1. i.      Angels?
    2. ii.      Seed/Feeder Funds?
    3. iii.      Venture Capital Firms?:
  2. Strategic Advice/Guidance & general mentorship of high quality early stage entrepreneurs
  3. Career Placement: do you want to help high quality talent land at your own startup or another startup in your network?

2)      Email fundlessfund@gmail.com and request to be added to our distribution list.  As we figure out the best ways to work with established entrepreneurs and executives, we’ll keep you in the loop and you can decided if/how you’d like to be involved

3)      Email fundlessfund@gmail.com if you’ve build a platform like this in the past and would like to advise on the construction and implementation of the fund

If you’re an Angel Investor, Seed Fund, or Venture Capitalist spending time in NYC:

1)      Would love your input and ideas: fundlessfund@gmail.com

2)      If you want to interact with us going forward, request to add your name to our distribution list

NOTE: Thanks for your patience as we play catch up to demand…we subscribe to the concept of customer development…first step is to figure out what everyone wants, next step is to productize it and begin to scale up

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Introducing the Fundless Fund…get involved

Posted on January 15, 2010. Filed under: startups, venture capital | Tags: , , , , , , |

I remember talking to Chris Dixon a while back about balancing his seed investing activity with running Hunch…at the time I looked at this from an investor’s perspective and thought to myself…”I would want my founder to be spending 100% of their effort and energy on the company that I put dollars behind.”  He explained that his activity as an investor is what keeps his thinking fresh, and that the stimulus of these conversations and data points made him a better CEO.

I didn’t really have a chance to understand this phenomenon in my last company because I was playing in a market with little or no overlap to most venture ideas/startups.  So even though I still thought like a venture capitalist, meeting with entrepreneurs and executives to discuss their companies and ambitions didn’t really present a whole lot of value to Untitled Partners.  Now that I am building a true consumer internet company at JumpPost (where other founders’ thinking enhances and is directly applicable to my own efforts), I find myself engaging in and building a body of “investor like” interactions (despite the fact that I don’t have a fund to invest).  I understand exactly what Dixon was talking about, to the point where I am actively allocating cycles of my week to meeting with entrepreneurs and people thinking about becoming entrepreneurs to discuss their businesses, pitches, products, fundraising strategies, etc…I don’t stand to gain financially from meeting with the next big thing (as I would if I was making angel investments), but I really like helping other entrepreneurs achieve their goals, and I get a ton of non-financial value from these meetings.

Charlie O’donnell wrote a post recently in which he called First Round Capital a “feeder fund for larger VC firms.” Meaning First Round, although a relatively small fund, has established great relationships with larger venture capital firms that are capable of writing the big checks that their companies might need.  So the idea is, you join First Round’s platform and then one of the big guys (Sequoia, Benchmark, Accel) follows.  Feeder funds, or seed funds, are the flavor of the month in the Startup Funding Ecosystem (see Dave McClures breakdown of this evolution in the market).  I’ll say they are largely accompanying/taking market share from professional angels who perform a similar “feeding” function into other Angels, Seed Funds, and Venture Capital firms.  This is all just to say that the startup investment landscape is largely driven by the referrals of trusted relationships.  Investors rely heavily on signals to determine what is and is not worth their time, so the opinion of someone who’s judgment they trust (as signaled by an early investment in a company, or even a “hey, you should take a look at this…met the founder…it’s interesting”) is how investors decide which 10 of every 100 potential investments that come through their inbox, they are going to explore.

You might say that over the past 5 months I have been building a feeder fund…minus the fund…This was not a calculated move on my part, but rather a pretty organic evolution that has increased in scope as I have watched the yield derived from building my own company on top of a “platform”.  A “platform” is any vehicle that creates a center of activity around a specific person or group of people.  In the case of a venture capital firm, the actual fund is the platform that serves this function…So when you have $1 Billion behind you, a gravitational force pulls entrepreneurs, executives, and opportunities toward the people operating on top of that platform (investors, EIR’s, etc.).  With exposure to all these parties gravitating toward the center of the platform, a VC is in unique position not only to identify relevant business opportunities, but also to realize those opportunities swiftly through the injection of capital or resources on hand. This is why being an EIR is such a cool way to build a company…the platform of a fund provides tons of exposure to interesting data/people/ideas provides fertile ground to develop a company.

In the absence of a fund, there are other types of “platforms” that an entrepreneur can leverage to increase exposure to opportunities and people.  Polaris’ DogPatch Labs (great job at Hackers & Founders last night) is an example of a platform, where if you sit in a shared space attached to a brand worth $1 Billion (even if you are not the one deploying it), you catch some fraction of the gravitational force that the Polaris itself commands.  Affiliations with networks of entrepreneurs like First Growth or even Meetup (to a much lesser extent), are ways of tapping into an existing platform’s pull, and hopefully using that pull to propel your startup further than it would go independent of any platform.

I have decided to build a new platform, Fundless Fund, and I invite you to participate in it.  This blog is one of the cornerstones of that platform, insofar as it has reduced the cost and effort required to market the value proposition of a young platform to a wide audience. I’ve combined that marketing channel with some embedded pieces of value that I have managed to acquire through my experiences in venture capital and entrepreneurship, and now I would like to roll them into what I will call my “fundless fund.” At some point in the future, perhaps when I make enough money to fund this “fundless fund,” (or perhaps when I establish enough credibility to have others back it), maybe this platform will be strengthened by the financial resources to accelerate growth within it, but for now, I am happy to announce the first day of The Fundless Fund.  The core values and opportunity that the Fundless Fund presents are as follows:

1) integrity

2) extreme candor

3) information not readily available elsewhere

4) exposure to potentially accretive ideas

5) exposure to a body of entrepreneurs and executives who have been filtered through the perspective and rigor exemplified by my posts (I’ve basically built a map of the smartest people I like in this world…which I think I will publish in a couple of weeks)

6) jobs: if you’re a star, we’ll give you a job or introduce you to some cool people who are looking to hire stars

7) money: if you’re company is fundable, happy to introduce you to as many Angel Investors, Seed Funds, and Venture Capital Firms as we can…If not, we’ll try to tell you what you need to do to get to a point where you are fundable.

This is pretty much an experiment in adding a new layer to Dave McClure’s Startup Funding Ecosystem.  I’d imagine it is a layer in which any entrepreneur or executive who would like to further the entrepreneurial movement as a whole might be able to contribute (independent of whether or not they have yet made the bucks to do so economically).  If there proves to be value in fomalizing this already existent layer in the stack, I will try to bring on some great people and partners to strengthen the effort.

As this fund is fundless, we’ll be very psyched to receive anyone who wants to throw some value into the mix.  If you’re great at organizing events…awesome…if you want to hack together a shitty website for the “fund”…awesome…if you want to meet young entrepreneurs and are in a position to provide the types of value I outlined above…awesome…if you have ideas on how to actually do this well…awesome.  If you want to vote this up on HackerNews, post it on Digg, or do anything else to get the message out to entrepreneurs and would be entrepreneurs that help is available and 100% free…donated by people who are trying to further out collective effort…awesome…Get involved by emailing FundlessFund@gmail.com (ideally with some link to your public presence online).

Note: I still spend 90% of my cycles on JumpPost, so patience with the speed of development/action is appreciated until we “staff up” a bit.

Second Note: If you think this is a dumb effort, or have any ideas about how to make it less dumb…please comment

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    About

    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)

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