The Lisbon Awakening

Man was I in a bad mood when I touched down in Lisbon. The last days had been stressful, a comically bad Bayern team were well beaten by Porto the evening before and I had to leave my home at 4am to catch the flight.

Well Lisbon sure did change my mood quickly. I went from grumpy cat to curiosity to extreme enthusiasm within a few hours. Every now and then you’re in a city for the first time and you just “feel it”.

It then struck me that I had felt like this before. I had seen this movie before. This was the Berlin movie:

  • The tech scene is organic – it happened on its own, came out of nowhere. That is much more fun and sustainable than any kind of political or targeted economic strategy.
  • There are a ton of constraints (funding, local talent base, etc.) so entrepreneurs need to hustle to make things happen. Hustle is good.
  • Berlin was an economic void, Portugal had a massive economic crisis and Lisbon sure isn’t letting that crisis go to waste.
  • Entrepreneurship has the real chance to be a center stage act, not a side gig. It’s everywhere.
  • The city is very, very cool. You just want to be here.
  • You
Leaped like a tiger, landed as a bedside rug – the risks of overselling your round

There is a German saying that goes something like this:

“Als Tiger gesprungen und als Bettvorleger gelandet.”

A rough English translation is “leaped like a tiger, landed as a bedside rug” – it basically means someone came roaring in to say a negotiation / argument / situation but essentially was overselling and or bluffing from the start in an over the top way – eventually the bluff is called and all credibility is lost. The outcome for the former tiger, now turned bedside rug, is never a good one.

Every now and then I’ll see this failed stunt in startup fundraising and it ends in tears a lot of the time. Actually I am seeing it more and more so I thought I’d write about it. It’s important because it can ruin your entire raise and risk your company – without any need.

The movie goes like this. “Hey you need to know we have XX term sheets at XX valuation and funds X, Y and Z are really keen. You have until XX to decide.” Sometimes the founders will say that, sometimes the existing investors will put in a call to us.

Per se that is OK -

Onboarding your investors

Your job is hard enough as a CEO to be dealing with a board / investors that only roughly understand what is actually going on. This happens more than it should.

So one of the things you can do to make sure your investors / board are really up to speed from day 1 is to run them through a structured onboarding process. Here are some ideas on how to do that:


Low gross margin allergy

I saw this a while a go on Michael Moritz’ bio and it has stuck with me since:

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 18.14.35

I have no problems with Cabernet grapes, I quite like garlic, I do have hay-fever (not sure about Wildgrasses though) but what stuck with me is the allergy to low gross margins.

I have a severe allergy against low gross margins too.

Why? I am going to over-simplify a lot and there are a ton of exceptions and caveats – but here it goes:

If you are building something difficult, that creates real value to users / customers / companies, something that is hard to replicate and unique with a great distribution model – well then you generally get to charge a lot more for your product than it cost you to produce it.  This can apply to anything from a unique consumer app to a niche SaaS company. There are a million ways to get there.

If you are doing something relatively straight forward (e.g. buying and selling on for a margin), something that is not so hard to replicate, something where customers will think twice about the price – well then you

A week on twitter, maps and democratizing data

Note: Scroll all the way down if you are interested in methodology and some caveats around how to interpret the data.

I built a map this morning showing twitter mentions of 4 portfolio companies during last week:

That’s pretty noisy so I looked at each individually.

Here’s CartoDB’s week on twitter:

CartoDB is platform and community for map builders (and folks building data apps on top of maps), so you would not necessarily expect a lot of folks talking about them on twitter. Except that when the community builds something and shares it. You can see activity increasing a lot towards end of the week when Simon Rogers built his #JeSuisCharlie map.

My guess was that of course most tweets would be out of France, so I toggled a switch to look at that:


Here’s EyeEm’s week on twitter:

EyeEm is a community and market place for mobile photography. It’s pretty popular everywhere and there are no obvious useage patterns. Well, except I figured Japan must be especially active as they are positively crazy about photography . So I toggled a switch to look