Clay Shirky does not write very frequently, but when he does, it's often worth paying attention to. His latest post is no exception.
Sriky is pointing out the changes in the media business and the inability of old media to comprehend them. He summarizes his point in a fun way:
To pick a couple of examples more or less at random, last year Barry
Diller of IAC said, of content available on the web, “It is not free,
and is not going to be,” Steve Brill of Journalism Online said that
users “just need to get back into the habit of doing so [paying for
content] online”, and Rupert Murdoch of News Corp said “Web users will
have to pay for what they watch and use.”
Diller, Brill, and Murdoch seem be stating a simple fact—we will
have to pay them—but this fact is not in fact a fact. Instead, it is a
choice, one its proponents often decline to spell out in full, because,
spelled out in full, it would read something like this:
“Web users will have to pay for what they watch and use, or else we
will have to stop making content in the costly and complex way we have
grown accustomed to making it. And we don’t know how to do that.”
What Clay Shirky is identifying for the media industry, can be attributed to the Turkish business environment in the broadest sense. It even includes businesses who were born to the connected economy.
My investments are built on one simple thesis: That Turkey has lagged
comparable markets in the transition of economic activity to the
connected platforms. I think there's enormous profit potential in this
situation, if the right exposure is attained. And part of it comes
from the behavior of incumbents in the Turkish economy. I will be thinking more about specific examples and try to document them in this blog.
I have made investments both as a VC and as an angel investor. The distinction for me is whose money I am investing. If it's my own, usually in smaller amounts, I view it as an angel investment, even if it is a part of a round with institutional investors.
It is quite frequent that I find myself in an investment conversation that does not fit the investment vehicle I am representing at that point. This usually happens in early rounds where the amount of capital required is too small for a VC, or the terms offered are not strong enough. In these cases, I can think about an angel investment, but in my scope of activities, this can sometimes pose problems. The primary issue it brings up is whether it hurts the alignment with my investors. I try to avoid situations where it can lead to a "front-running my investors" scenario. So far, I have been successful at that.
So the ideal solution is forming a structure where a VC can participate in these types of angel rounds. Ben Horowitz has a great post on the issue and I don't need to spell out the points he already makes. I basically agree 100%.
I also think it's a great idea to utilize the Series Seed type documents in these types of deals. My latest angel investment, CivicSolar, used this set of documents which made the process considerable faster, and I presume, less expensive for CivicSolar.
My friend Auren has a good post on a very important responsibility for entrepreneurs: the expedient killing of stuff that is not bringing value. He summarizes the issue:
Being able to kill things early is essential to the long-term
growth and success of any company. But recognizing that you should be
searching for things to kill is the first step to building a better
As your company grows, you’ll have more things – both big and small
– that either weigh down growth or are not core to long-term success.
The companies that work proactively to get rid of these issues and
devote resources to the areas that matter are the ones that will be
able to remain nimble, innovative, and win.
This is also interesting to me as a VC. Usually, we are not in a position to make the killing decisions at our portfolio companies. So, our job is to prod our entrepreneur partners in their constant pruning of their organizations, and provide the necessary encouragement for them to take action.
There are two very important events that will take place in Istanbul over the next couple of weeks.
First is the NuBridge Angel Summit, organized by my friend Pamir Gelenbe, who's a London-based VC of Turkish origin. The event brings to Istanbul a group of world-class angel investors, including:
I am also participating in the event, which will take place on January 14 & 15. It should provide an excellent venue for Turkish internet ventures looking for angel backing.
The second event is the NuBridge Istanbul VC Summit, scheduled for January 21 & 22, which we're proud to sponsor as GHV. I think this event will be an important milestone in the development path of the Turkish Venture Capital industry. The event's format will resemble that of the European Tech Tour Association's events, in that a group of top-tier VCs from around the world will get a chance to meet a select group of Turkish internet and technology companies. You can find a list of participants at the event's website and Çağlar Erol's blog (in Turkish).
I am especially excited to have a few of our GHV portfolio companies (Grou.ps, beFunky, Yogurtistan), as well as a personal investment of mine (YemekSepeti.com), presenting.
If you are interested in being associated with either event, please contact Pamir through the event website, although I understand that attendance will be extremely tight due to space constraints.
Jeff Bussgang, whose blog has been a source of inspiration for me over the years, has a post on VCs blogging. There seems to be a bit of controversy over the issue, as you can see in the comments of the post, and its re-blogs at PEHub and Business Week.
As a VC who blogs and tweets, let me come out with my reasons.
- Record of Thoughts: My blog is a personal note pad. I find it useful to be able to browse over a record, albeit public, of my thoughts on certain topics and how they have evolved over time.
- Discussion Arena: I use Sortipreneur, even with its small audience, as a useful discussion environment. Through my blog and my tweets, I am able to interact with a community where many members are smarter than me. I use it to ask questions, test ideas and, sometimes, provoke.
- Newsfeed: My blog often works as the News tab for me. I use it to announce investments, events, etc. that may be relevant or interesting to the Turkish startup community.
- Education: Probably the most selfish reason for my blog is that it helps me educate my consitutents and help me do my job easier. I can communicate what type of deals I am interested in, the VC structure, the deal process, etc.
After about four and a half years of blogging, I can say I have benefited a lot from the activity. I beleive ideas grow thorough sharing and a blog is a great vehicle for that.
UPDATE: The folks at Etohum have just uploaded a video of my presentation on Venture Capital, on December 19th at the Etohum Entrepreneurship Camp. The video is in Turkish.
Here's the presentation accompanying my talk on venture capital at Etohum last week. Sorry for the tardy post.
NB. It's in Turkish.
Etohum Kampı – Girişim Sermayesihttp://static.slidesharecdn.com/swf/ssplayer2.swf?doc=giriimsermayesietohum19dec2009-091221151030-phpapp02&stripped_title=etohum-kamp-giriim-sermayesi
View more presentations from Burak Buyukdemir.
I'm a big fan of Eric Ries's MVP notion. I firmly believe that it's exceedingly rare that a startup or a product fails because it's missing that nth feature.
Feature creep is tempting in the early stages when the product is the one area of a business that the founders have close to full control on. And since founders tend to be very passionate and hard working, they feel that adding that one extra feature will differentiate their product and help them in going to market.
Optimizing features by applying the Pareto Principle will lead to a more effective use of resources. Nivi has a great recent post on this topic with some great ideas and examples. My favorites:
“If Apple can launch a smartphone without Find or Cut-and-Paste, what can you cut out of your product requirements?” – Sramana Mitra
“The first version of Gmail was literally written in a day.”
Jason Calacanis is waging a war against angel investor groups charging entrepreneurs to hear their business plans. I agree with him that this is a very unsavory practice and support him in his crusade. I am not aware of any angel investor groups in the Turkish market who charge startups to hear pitches, but please let me know if you are know of one.
UPDATE: Fred's post reminds me of another variant: The startup coach. We have a few of these here in Turkey. If you are thinking of spending your precious cash on one, be very careful in evaluating the merits of the coach you are about to hire.
This year I am on the selection committee for the ETT Web & Mobility Summit. My focus will be mainly on the startups from Turkey and the region and I am looking forward to helping some of the great companies that have emerged from our geography get more European exposure.
If you are an entrepreneur, I strongly suggest applying to present at the summit.
I also have a guest blog, in Turkish, on Webrazzi on the topic.
There was a post on AVC last week (inspired by a post by Chris Dİxon) on what type of issues are important on early stage VC term sheets. Both posts and the comments are must-reads for any entrepreneur looking to raise venture capital.
On the heels of this conversation, came a draft first round term sheet published by TheFunded Founder Institute, laying out what they see as standard, acceptable terms. It's great to see that a FFI, which specifically supports founders, has put out terms that are fair. I think this document can be a starting point in many funding situations.