EP2: Building Over Time

In today’s post, we catch a glimpse of Richard Parson’s approach to building a company over time and taking the long-term perspective to build correctly.

Overview / Summary:

It takes time. Through an anecdote on the creation and utility of flat log rollers popularized in London, Dick emphasizes the importance of taking a long-term approach to building.

Stay tuned for next week’s post!

EP2: Building Over Time

EP1: Two Rules of Leadership

As a new series, every week, we will be releasing a video in which Brad Harrison, Scout Ventures – Managing Partner, interviews a long time mentor and industry expert, Richard Parsons.

Dick Parsons is a senior advisor of Providence Equity and former chairman of Citigroup. He is also the former chairman and CEO of Time Warner. Before joining Time Warner in 1995, Mr. Parsons was chairman and CEO of Dime Bancorp. Mr. Parsons has held various positions in state and federal government, serving as counsel to Nelson Rockefeller and as a senior White House aide under President Gerald Ford. Richard is currently a director of Estée Lauder Companies and Lazard, and is chairman of the Apollo Theatre Foundation. Most recently, Mr. Parsons served as the interim CEO of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team.

Here is the first video in which Dick talks about Leadership.

Here’s a recap if you didn’t watch the video:

  1. When put in a position of command, take charge.
  2. Do what is right.

Simple and to the point.

Stay tuned for next week’s video.

EP1: Two Rules of Leadership

Wes Blackwell joins Scout Ventures to invest in early-stage, veteran-led startups

This post was written by Anthony Ha (TechCrunch) and originally posted here


We haven’t written much about Scout Ventures, but the New York City-based firm has built up a big portfolio over nearly a decade of investing, with exits like Olapic (acquired by Monotype for $130 million) and Kanvas (acquired by TechCrunch’s parent company AOL).

And, it’s done all of this with just one full-time partner, Bradley C. Harrison — until recently, when the firm brought on Wes Blackwell as partner.

Blackwell is an advisor to Washington, D.C. startup studio DataTribe and previously led enterprise implementation, account management and tech support at LiveSafe. And like Harrison (who graduated from West Point and served in the Army for five years), Blackwell is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, having spent more than a decade flying helicopters in the Navy.

“If you’d asked me five years ago if I would have partnered with an Annapolis Navy brat, the answer would have been an unequivocal no,” Harrison said. But he said that as he and Blackwell started spending more time together, he realized that their backgrounds were complementary: “It made all the sense in the world.”

And the Armed Forces background isn’t just another line in their bios — Harrison said that about half of the companies that Scout has invested in were founded by veterans.

“We don’t find a lot of competition in this stuff,” he explained. “It’s a pretty tight community.”

Scout typically writes initial checks of between $500,000 and $750,000 and aims to take a stake of around 10 percent. And while Harrison has been the only full-time partner until now, the firm has a team that also includes several venture partners and Principal Brendan Syron.

“Like any good investors, our thesis evolves over time,” Syron told me. He said the firm has become increasingly interested in frontier technology, with investments in its “core sectors” of AI, machine learning, autonomy and mobility, and “a big focus” on data and cybersecurity — an area where Blackwell has strong connections.

“Some of folks in this industry, by their nature, they’re not very trusting,” Blackwell said. “So by virtue of Brad and I’s background and character, there’s a trust factor there.”

Blackwell has already made his first investment as part of Scout, leading a $1.5 million round in DeepSig, a startup working to improve wireless technology by applying deep learning to radio signal data.

Wes Blackwell joins Scout Ventures to invest in early-stage, veteran-led startups

Where will all the flying cars park?

This post was written by Nisa Amoils (Venture Partner) and originally posted here.

Yesterday Lilium jet became the latest to announce their flying car $90 million funding round for “airplane as a service” businesses. Add to the giants like Tesla and Nvidia that are already working on this. The promise of the 5 seater all-electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) jet is that it is 5 times faster than cars and with significantly less environmental impact. There are a number of other startups that are focused on the electric aircraft market, including Kitty Hawk and Zee.aero, both backed by Larry Page; and Vahana, backed by Airbus.

The Lilium VTOL jet is solely electric-powered which has left some aviation experts skeptical that the startup can reach its goal of speeds up to 300 kph and a distance of 300 km. However, the company claims that they have optimized the battery and the design (no tail). They have also made it 4 times less noisy than a helicopter so you can only hear it on takeoff and landing.

This all sounds great but if the ultimate vision is that you can own one as a luxury, where is everyone going to park them? They are not going to fit in the garage and probably require a hangar for protection and insulation. I assume you need to keep them at a certain temperature so that they don’t freeze when they hit the cold air. Is everyone going to have their own de-icing machine? We just invested in a new de-ice technology TBA — that could work. But on the parking side, it raises the question of a vision for a new type of community as we move into a Jetson-like world.

I just visited the Refuge Alpine Air Park in Wyoming https://alpineairpark.com/airport/ and believe this could be the vision for how our communities will look! Built by aviation enthusiasts and only 45 minutes from Jackson Hole, it is a community of houses with their own hangars to house helicopters, planes and other aerial machines. so they are really “personal air machine garages”! Imagine that when you land there, you land on a street that is a runway and then taxi to your house. You pass people walking their dogs as you taxi by! Because of personal aviation, you have a community where there would have been none. Granted, this is real luxury in that it is in the middle of the mountains with spectacular views, but imagine if costs could come down and the concept could be applied everywhere. I am lucky to have visited the Refuge and caught that vision. I can’t wait to see the innovation that continues to come in these machines, how we house them, and how it impacts humanity.

Where will all the flying cars park?


Some thoughts about how to have a happier future.

Be Happy

I find myself in one of the most grounded, healthy and happy places I think I’ve ever been.

While the constant ups and downs of life still continue, I have found an internal compass magnetized by gratitude and pointing me in the direction of happiness.

This has not been an easy or short path.

It has not been without obstacles especially those self-imposed.

But as of now, I am in tune.

Much love.

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Dilution: Priced Rounds vs Convertible Notes

There have been many posts by investors articulating the issues with convertible notes. Most recently, Fred Wilson wrote that one of his main issues with notes is that they “obfuscate the amount of dilution the founder(s) is taking.”

While there are more aspects of notes that entrepreneurs may not think about (see Fred’s post) I will solely focus on dilution for this post. I build out 2 examples (equity vs. notes) and 2 rounds within those examples (“pre-seed” and “institutional seed” rounds).

Example 1: Equity

Terms: $1M at $3M pre-money valuation, 20% employee option pool.

As you can see, the Founding Team owns 55% of the Company after the round. The rest of the cap table is clean and everyone knows exactly what they own.

Now, let’s assume that, about 18 months from Round 1, the Company demonstrates enough traction to raise a $2M round at a $6M pre-money valuation. The investors set the option pool to 18%, to be reflected in the pre-money share count (ensures new money in doesn’t get diluted by increase in option pool). Round 1 investors also take their pro-rata.

At the end of the 2nd round, the Founding Team owns 39.19% of the Company.

Example 2: Convertible Note

Round 1 Terms: $1M at a $4M valuation cap; 20% discount on the next round; 7% interest; 20% employee option pool at Company formation.

Here, the cap table reflects the investment (as debt), but does not effect ownership of in the Company. The Founding Team owns 80% on the cap table, but in reality it is somewhere much less than that (most likely around 55%). Depending on a variety of factors, though, the Founders really do not have a clear idea of how much of the Company they own. And as many have noted, this puts the Company in a slightly precarious situation.

Now, about 18 months later, the Company raises an equity round with the same terms as Example 1: $2M at a $6M pre-money valuation. In this case I simply doubled the employee option pool (which results in the same 18% ownership in this specific example).

Round 1 Investors converted at the $4M cap as opposed to the 20% discount. The Founding Team, though, end up with 36% of the Company, whereas in Example 1, they ended up with 39%.

The difference then, at the same terms, was ~3% extra dilution by taking a convertible note instead of equity.

This 3% can be substantially increased if founders take on more capital on the notes, offer a lower cap, or a larger discount. In a few different permutations of this model, the delta ended up being 6%-8%.

At the end of the day, the fact that founders are taking “extra dilution” is not the problem. It’s the fact that many aren’t realizing it. And when it comes to the date when this is realized, it can understandably be extremely unsettling.

So, if you’re a founder and want to play with the different scenarios, feel free to reach out to me and I can share this model with you.

Dilution: Priced Rounds vs Convertible Notes

ID.me closes $19M led by FTV Capital

This article originally appeared on the Washington Post and can be found here

Signing into web pages is almost universally known as one of the most annoying parts of the Internet.

Most people either have keep a separate list of every password needed to log into each different platform, or use one or two passwords for everything, something that security experts say emboldens identity thieves.

A number of gigantic technology companies are trying to find a simpler way.

Companies like Facebook and Google let users log into multiple products with the same username and password. And a growing pool of companies is gunning to create a system that works across numerous products. Providing this sort of identity verification across various web pages requires certain certifications, attracting a limited pool of mostly large technology companies including Verizon and Symantec.

But alongside these big companies, a little start-up called ID.me is betting on the the idea of an all-encompassing electronic sign-in. Originally founded as a sort of military-focused daily deals company, then named TroopSwap, the company now has a $19 million war chest to focus singularly on managing people’s identities.

“We think it’s a fundamental problem that digital identity is in the hands of two advertising companies, Facebook and Google. That clearly is not OK,” said chief executive Blake Hall.

“What we really want to do is create a ubiquitous ID network whether its ID.me or somebody else.”

ID.Me said Wednesday it has raised $19 million from FTV Capital, a San Francisco-based private equity firm, with another $21 million planned for later. Financial details were not disclosed, but Hall says the company making the investment would not have a controlling stake in the business.

Blake’s company is building an online network where people — or the businesses that ID.me contracts with — can upload specific forms of credentials needed to identify an individual for a specific purpose. For most problems, that involves a relatively limited pool of identifying factors, minimizing the amount of sensitive data that might be exposed.

ID.me embarked on this new line of business in 2013 after experimenting with other business models in its early days. After the TroopSwap daily deals business sputtered, the company re-branded as TroopID, with a new plan to make it easier for troops to identify themselves online to claim things like medical benefits.

That toe-hold in the market for online authentication services preceded the broader market the company is now targeting.

Hall says the new funding will be used to build out a sales and marketing force that went largely ignored in the company’s early days.

The young company has 253 customers, most of whom are large e-commerce sites that use ID.me’s technology to identify millions of users. Hall declined to disclose financial details, but said the company’s revenue more than quadrupled last year and is projected to be “in the eight figures for sure.”

ID.me closes $19M led by FTV Capital

Brad Harrison on Venture Studio

Brad Harrison recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Lerner on Venture Studio, where the two discussed investment philosophy, NY tech, Olapic, and much more. We highly recommend giving it a listen (37 minutes).

Dave is a serial entrepreneur with 3 exits, angel investor in 70+ companies and the host of Venture Studio, a popular podcast where I interview some of the most interesting investors and personalities in NYC tech and beyond. He is also the Director of Entrepreneurship at Columbia University, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School and was the Director of Columbia’s Venture Lab for seven years where he spun-out 70+ technology start-ups based on university research.


Brad Harrison on Venture Studio

NYC VC 2017

Be Happy

On a daily basis, I am inspired by blogs from the likes of Fred Wilson (AVC) and Brad Feld (Feld Thoughts) who consistently publish insightful and educational pieces for entrepreneurs, investors, and anyone who wants to better understand early stage investing and current technology trends.

From this inspiration, I’ve committed to be a more prolific writer in 2017 and beyond.

This morning, I was talking to a long time friend, advisor, and co-founder of Everplans, Adam Seifer about the ever changing landscape of early stage investing.

Specifically, we were discussing how NYC was become a more competitive market, with many of the micro-VCs now writing bigger checks ($500k-$1M) leaving less room for other firms and angels to participate in the seed round.    Most of the micro-VCs have well defined investment thesis’ and thus look to take a big position in early stage companies that fit their profile.

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NYC VC 2017

Digi International Acquires IoT Cold Chain Provider FreshTemp

Original post can be found here.
Acquisition Broadens Temperature Monitoring and Adds Digital Task Management Solutions for the Cold Chain and Food Industry

MINNETONKA, Minn., Nov. 2,  2016  –  Digi International®, (NASDAQ: DGII, www.digi.com), a leading global provider of machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity products and services, today announced the purchase of FreshTemp, a provider of  temperature monitoring and task management solutions for the food industry. The acquired technology will continue to be supported, as well as leveraged within the Digi HoneycombTM solution, to create an advanced portfolio of products for the cold chain market. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded in 2011 by CEO Jeff Rieger, FreshTemp has been a pioneering company in creating technology, services and domain expertise in complete food safety and operations management for commercial kitchens. With this acquisition, Digi Cold Chain Solutions will expand its temperature monitoring solutions to incorporate digital task management capabilities to replace traditional manual logbooks and simplify daily restaurant tasks. Organizations will be able to streamline manual operational checklists and provide insight to managers on how well their teams are adhering to restaurant guidelines. As part of the acquisition, Mr. Rieger and FreshTemp employees will become part of the Digi Cold Chain Solutions team.

“Our solution sets are extremely compatible and I’m excited to be able to leverage the market presence and scale that Digi offers our customers,” said Jeff Rieger, founder and chief executive officer of FreshTemp. “Together, we’ll be able to accelerate the adoption of our solutions and support the growing demand for technology that ensures businesses are serving safe and quality food.”

“We believe the cold chain market represents a large underserved market that can take greater advantage of wireless sensor networking and IoT capabilities,” said Ron Konezny, president and chief executive officer, Digi International. “We’re going to leverage all avenues – organic growth, partnerships, and acquisitions – to further establish Digi as the expert in providing easy to use and ROI generating cold chain solutions.

Since its introduction, Digi Honeycomb has been deployed in a number of leading quick service restaurants, and has established itself as a leading solution through partnerships such as those with TELUS, Canada’s fastest-growing national telecommunications company.

Digi Honeycomb is an automated food temperature monitoring service that encompasses front-of-house and back-of-house environments to alert users if the proper temperature is not maintained. FreshTemp’s core product line as well as task management capabilities will be made available through Digi Cold Chain Solutions.  As a result, organizations in the food industry will be able to address major operational challenges. For more information visit: http://www.digi.com/cold-chain-solutions.

About Digi International 
Digi International (NASDAQ: DGII) is a leading global provider of business and mission-critical machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity products and services. We help our customers create next-generation connected products and deploy and manage critical communications infrastructures in demanding environments with high levels of security, relentless reliability and bulletproof performance. Founded in 1985, we’ve helped our customers connect over 100 million things, and growing.

Digi International Acquires IoT Cold Chain Provider FreshTemp