Introducing Inside VR & AR

Today we’re launching our latest newsletter: Inside VR & AR.

As you might have guessed, it’s just like the Launch Ticker (i.e. highly curated, in-depth, no bs) except it’s focused on news related to virtual/augmented reality.

If you’re an investor, work in media or in technology and want to know what’s happening with VR/AR, or you’re a VR/AR enthusiast – we think you’ll like this newsletter. We’ve been iterating on it in private beta with a group of 50 investors and founders who operate in the virtual and/or augmented reality space, and have dialed in an editorial angle/process that we think will resonate with you.

Four asks:

  1. Head over to Product Hunt and look for Inside VR/AR, and leave a comment or show your support (I’m doing a Q&A right now)   
  2. Subscribe: vrar.inside.com
  3. Forward to friends who are interested in VR/AR!
  4. Click to tweet a one-click subscribe card for Inside VR & AR (can edit before sending)

As always, post a comment and let us know what you think. – @jason

Some thoughts on gun violence from a gun owner

Originally published in the Inside Daily Brief

I’m a gun owner, which might (or might not) come as a surprise to some of you who’ve seen me talk about gun control on social media from time to time. Of course, I talk about personal freedom a whole lot too, which I think makes me a model of how most Americans feel about guns, which is pragmatic and depressed.

There is no question we have a gun violence problem in the United States, as this weekend’s tragically record-setting mass killing in Orlando demonstrates (not to mention the murder of YouTube personality Christina Grimmie less than 24 hours earlier.) There are clearly differences between all of these horrible shootings, but you wouldn’t know that from how each side of the argument uses them to push their extreme agendas of “no guns” or “no limits on guns.”

We’ll see what the investigation in Orlando turns up, but these stories tend to triangulate around mental illness, easy access to powerful weapons and “lone wolf” terrorism. This time, we’ve also got to contend with the loathsome hate crime aspect of the senseless murder of over 50 people.

Lone wolves feel distraught, that the system has screwed them over and that they have nothing to live for, and suddenly an opportunistic radical group — or the voices in their head — leverage that isolation to achieve even more sinister goals. They’re very hard to deal with and impossible to solve for completely.

Gun control feels like our most challenging issue as a country, as our founding charter was designed to be difficult to change. Attempts to abolish the Second Amendment, in some ways, feels to patriotic Americans as evidence for why the Amendment exists — as a bulwark against unchecked government power.

Of course, the Founding Fathers didn’t give us many details about how easy it should be to get firearms, if criminals should have them, what the waiting period should be, or if you should be able to buy, say, a grenade launcher! Thanks, guys!

Perhaps the stalemate we’re in is exactly what our forefathers intended, a rough and tumble battle that makes us fight for every inch of progress or maintaining the status quo. Or perhaps the Founding Fathers didn’t anticipate that technology would exist allowing one armed individual to savagely murder over 50 people in just minutes. (How could they, in a time when the average gun took a couple of minutes to reload and the accuracy wasn’t particularly precise?)

So, here we are, a polarized country dealing with extremist groups, deadly weaponry that’s absurdly easy to obtain, a mental-illness crisis and a (largely) link-baiting media corp that makes their bones by soaking up page views and ratings when people die in random attacks.

There’s a solution to this, but only if we can assure the gun-owning public (around 33% of US adults) that the Left isn’t driving toward a gun-free society, with incremental controls as a pathway to complete abolition of gun ownership.

The reasonable compromise seems like requiring insurance based on how deadly a weapon is, combined with background checks and licensing, just like how we deal with cars. Of course, this can never happen if the Left insists on “no guns!” and the Right insists on “no limits on guns!”

In my plan, a revolver might cost, say, $100 to insure every year — about 1/3rd of the cost of the gun. A more powerful handgun with a larger magazine might be $250, while assault style riffle would be $1,000 a year.

The time to get a licenses would increase as well. Just as a standard driver’s license might take a week or two of effort, but the license to drive a big-rig might take weeks or months of training. If you want to buy an assault riffle, be prepared for a certification course and insurance, which would provide ample time for law enforcement — and the insurance companies — to red flag bad actors.

Right now, the time, cost and paperwork between wanting to pull off a mass shooting and getting powerful weapons to enact those plans is minutes. In my model, it would take months — and it should take that long if we’re going to allow them.

Now, a gun-free society would just be wonderful, unless you’re some conspiracy theorist who believes that a random individual, once thought to be unelectable, figures out how to hack the political system and take office, and then dismantle our democracy, starting with journalists, while blaming the poorest and defenseless among us. In that case, well, you might really appreciate the spirit of the Second Amendment.

What a depressing mess.

What do you think, is there a solution? Could we ever get both sides to the middle? Are you in the middle or on the left or right — and why?

Originally published in the Inside Daily Brief – subscribe to get all the best news in your inbox.

The Stunning and Expected End of Gawker

Originally published in the Inside Daily Brief

Nick Denton’s incendiary publishing empire, Gawker Media, collapsed under the weight of his excessively cruel and cutting philosophy today, an outcome many predicted, but that Denton miraculously dodged for a decade, as subjects chose to thicken their skin rather than get into protracted and destructive litigation, until Peter Thiel anonymously bankrolled them.

Gawker’s demise is an Rorschach test for the intelligencer, with journalists, billionaires, publishers and pundits all being forced to decide which aspects of Denton’s business to focus on, reconciling the loathsome (or socially just) outing of gay men, the hilarious (or illegal) tweaking of powerful media manipulator Steve Jobs by buying a stolen iPhone and the invasion of privacy of celebrities by publishing their sex tapes.

That last one, which landed a $140m bomb on Gawker, is impossible for anyone to defend, as was the outing of closeted gay man (and a non “public figure”) being shaken down by an escort (a story Denton had taken down), except by the staunchest of free speech advocates, who fall back on the “I wouldn’t publish it, but have to defend ugly free speech to keep whistleblowers protected.”

This is the crux of the entire donnybrook: where is the line between your freedom of speech and my right to privacy. If we asked 1,000 journalist if they would publish a stolen sex tape I think we all know how they would answer that question. If you asked 1,000 civilians if stolen sex tapes should be published I think we would get a similar response.

In fact, Gawker has employed countless very talented writers, who have broken dozens of important stories, and I’m guessing most of them would never publish a sex tape.

However, just as Gawker judged their subjects on their worst moments, they to are being taken down by their worst, bone-headed decisions.

In fact, the entire downfall of Gawker revolves around the outing of a gay man by a gay journalist working for a gay publisher, at a moment in time when being gay was something that would, sadly, often result in you having dramatically less professional opportunity. A time when Tim Cook and Anderson Cooper were in the closet, and when society might not have accepted their ascension to becoming the top anchorman and CEO in the world.

Gawker’s downfall has as much (or more) to do with our society’s bigotry against gay men as it does free speech. If Peter felt safe enough to run a hedge fund as a gay man (not an easy thing to do if you want money from, say, Saudi Arabia, where being openly gay could result in imprisonment, flogging or death), or if Denton and some portion of his writers, didn’t have the goal of putting gay men for some combination of page views and, I assume, to social change, none of us would have been dragged into their all-consuming group Rorschach test.

People are not all good or all bad, and Denton and Thiel are both unique, driven individuals who I know fairly well (I’ve traded emails with both in the past month), and who I see as hurt individuals now in the final act of a brutal drama of Denton’s creation.

Nick would do things differently if he could turn back the clock, and before a jury nailed him for his mistakes, so this bankruptcy is his Penance.

Gawker was worth $300,000,000 before this and I heard Denton owned 75% of the company. My guess is the company will sell for $100M, pay off creditors for the majority of that money, leaving Denton with A whopping twenty million dollars — a fraction of the $225m he would have made.

Peter Thiel will have spent $10-20m supporting these lawsuits, and get paid back all of that from the Hulk Hogan settlement, an inconsequential amount of money for someone with billions.

The whole episode will have no impact on any other publisher you know and Peter will never launch another volley of anonymous lawsuit against a publisher again.

At the end of the day we can agree that:

  1. We all want a free, vibrant press.
  2. We don’t want billionaires suing publications into oblivion because they are personally wronged.
  3. We don’t want journalists publishing people’s sex tapes, libeling them or otherwise invading people’s privacy.
  4. We want all journalists to subscribe to basic ethical concepts(i.e. fact checking, getting comments from subjects before publishing, getting multiple sources before publishing).

There is no big lesson here for journalists or publishers outside of “don’t publish stolen sex tapes.” If you follow the basic rules of the road you will should be fine. This Whole mess is an isolated, bizarre battle of will at a moment in time that doesn’t indicate on a larger or sustained trend.

Everyone back to work.

 

Introducing Inside Tesla

Today we’re launching our second newsletter: Inside Tesla. As you might have guessed, it’s just like the Launch Ticker (i.e. highly curated, in-depth, no bullshit) except it’s focused on news related to Tesla Motors.

If you own a Tesla, covet a Tesla Model 3, own shares in $TSLA or are an Elon Musk fanboy, you’re going to love it. If you like burning fossil fuels, destroying the environment, risking the future of planet earth and you don’t want to live on Mars some day, just close this tab. :-)

Four quick asks:

  1. Head over to Product Hunt and look for Inside Tesla and join the discussion
  2. Subscribe: tesla.inside.com
  3. Send this post to a friend who owns a Tesla!
  4. Click to tweet a one-click subscribe card for Inside Tesla (can edit before sending)

As always, post a comment and let us know what you think.

Starting today “civilians” can be angel investors — should they?

This month I finished investing my first angel fund, the LAUNCH Fund. It took 35 months to deploy the $10m fund in 85 startups. During that same period, my team and I have run the most active “angel syndicate” in history.

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So I’ve been a “professional angel” for about three years, with three years of “dabbling” in angel investing as a Sequoia Scout before that. It’s been extremely rewarding, personally giving back to fellow founders, and obviously hitting a home run every 50 investments has made it a financially sound decision (who knows, I might hit a home run every 20 investments — time will tell — Yum! Yum!).

Angel Syndicates Two Years In

For background, angel syndicates are a new phenomenon here in Silicon Valley, with SeedInvest, FundersClub and AngelList being the most notable platforms in the space.

A syndicate is a group of well-heeled investors (more on this later) acting as one corporate entity, commonly referred to as an SPV (special purpose vehicle), in order to invest their money into a startup. Typically, we’ll have 50 to 99 investors (the legal limit in an LLC structure) who have put in between $1,000 to $50,000 each.  

We did one of the first, back on March 11, 2014, for a company called Calm.com, for which we raised $328k. They’ve done exceptionally well since then, and I’m optimistic we will return a multiple on our cash back to investors on this company, in which few people wanted to invest at the time (back then mindful meditation and paid Apps weren’t as proven; today the company is doing millions in revenue).

Calm.com is not a done deal, but I love that we did that deal when folks speculated we shouldn’t have.

That’s what I do for a living: really, really risky investments. That’s why I call our syndicate the “trench run syndicate,” after Luke Skywalker’s — spoiler alert — risky attack on the Death Star.

We are currently running our syndicate on AngelList (angel.co/jason) and we’ve done 45 syndicates to date, for a total of $12.2m, with many of them being oversubscribed (as in, people who wanted to invest were not able to because we filled our “allocation” which is given to us by the founder of the company).

There are 954 members of my syndicate, representing $3.9m per deal. Since only 99 people can invest in each SPV, we typically invest $200-300k per deal.

Included in the 45 deals are folks like: Calm.com ($328k), Brilliant ($258k & $207k), OneDrop ($408k & $489k), Butterfleye ($748k & $168k), Signpost ($499k), Wrapify ($309k & $134k) and Cafe X ($416k).

Continue reading Starting today “civilians” can be angel investors — should they?

Lions & Lambs in the “Post Unicorn” Era

S’all about that dollar and we nuh deal with cowards
Weak lambs get devoured by the lion
In the concrete jungle, the strong stand and rumble
The weak fold and crumble, it’s the land of trouble
– Lil’ Kim, Lighters Up

Exceptional post from exceptional investor and deceivingly brilliant strategist Bill Gurley this week (he speaks simply, but drops knowledge bombs consistently — my kinda VC).

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Bill outlines the dynamics of the unicorn era and the funding dynamics for the founders, employees, VC, angels, mutual funds and LPs invested in these high flyers — and in some cases — “die-ers.” Go read it and take some notes in case you are lucky enough to invest in, work for or create one of these high flyers.

In this post, I want to talk about the new rules for aspiring unicorns which I will call “lambs” in this piece because, sadly, many founders out there have been softened by market conditions and are going to be slaughtered and eaten. Apologies if you cry at trees being cut down, and don’t like the graphic nature of the metaphor, but startups before their A round — which is where I operate — are a high mortality business. Eight of 10 startups angels invest in, in my experience, are a donut (zero dollars returned).

The mortality rate shouldn’t actually be that high, but an environment as frothy and freewheeling as the one we have experienced these past three years has lead first-time founders to a level of entitlement that makes an episode of HBO’s GIRLS, filled with the worst decision making since an installment of Friday the 13th, seem decisively well thought out.

In selecting startups for the LAUNCH Incubator we look for lions, not lambs. We want predatory founders that want to eat what they kill, sharpen their claws and be feared by the rest of the jungle.

Continue reading Lions & Lambs in the “Post Unicorn” Era

Understanding & gaming the selection process at incubators (like Y Combinator, 500Startups and Techstars)

Having run the LAUNCH Festival for almost a decade, and the LAUNCH Incubator for just over a year now (with 27 of 29 startups graduating), I’ve learned a lot about how people are selected for events and incubators.

Not only did I write the book on this kind of thing, starting with my “Ready, Set, Pitch event!” in New York City in 1997, I’m literally writing a book about it right now (book announcement coming soon!).

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In this quick post I’m going to explain to you how the first round of sorting works for incubators like Y Combinator, Techstars and LAUNCH Incubator (which is almost identical for events like DEMO, TechCrunch Disrupt and LAUNCH Festival).

After you apply to an incubator you are put into one of three buckets:  NFW, HFS and MAYBE.

Depending on the dealflow of an event or incubator, there are different percentages in each group, but for argument’s sake here is the rough breakdown:

50%: “No f@#$ing way!” bucket
25%: “Holy f@#$ing s@#t!” bucket
25%: Maybe

Your goal is to be so awesome that one of the reviewers says “Holy f@#$ing s@#t this is cool!” In the past couple of years I’ve had this experience a number of times, including when I saw Mint.com, CafeX, FitBit, Zembula and Yammer.

Continue reading Understanding & gaming the selection process at incubators (like Y Combinator, 500Startups and Techstars)

Ask Jason webinar this Friday 4/8: “How do I get into a great incubator?”

Launch -61

UPDATE: Today’s webinar is oversubscribed. Due to popular demand, Jason will host it again next week on Wednesday 4/13, at 1pm PT. Sign up here!

Hi everyone, Producer Jacqui here.

A question that Jason and our entire team hear repeatedly is:

“How do I get into a great incubator like 500 Startups, Y Combinator, Techstars, or the LAUNCH Incubator?”

Well, this Friday we’re hosting a special “Ask Jason” webinar for 50 founders in an exclusive session, so that Jason can answer this in detail!

The webinar is Friday 4/8 at 3:00PM PT. Care to join us? Reserve one of the 50 slots by filling out this form.

Hope to see you there!

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending: http://ctt.ec/jWuw0 ]

Understanding the magnitude of Tesla’s $11b+ triumph

Telsa now has 276,000+ preorders which, at an average order of $42,000, will result in $11b+ in revenue.

It’s clear that Tesla will hit 500,000 pre-orders this year.

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The original iPhone sold 5m+ units in its first year, which at $600 would be $3b+ in total sales. The iPad sold 19m+ in its first year, which at $700 would be $13b+ in total sales.

$11b+ in sales for a product that will be delivered no sooner than 21 months from now — a year into Donald or Hillary’s first term.

$11b+ in pre-sales for a product as oil has fallen from a high of $140/barrel ($5/gallon) to a low of $28/barrel ($1.60/gallon).

What can we take from this incomprehensible success?

  1. Tesla built up massive demand based on absurd NPS scores over the eight years since the Tesla Roadster hit the roads.
  2. Some percentage of consumers are enamored with the concept of emissions-free vehicles — even if they cost *more* than other cars.
  3. By extension, I think we can say that a significant number of consumers — enough to create the best selling pre-order product in the history of humanity — believe in global warming even though it will cost them personally more money.
  4. The long tech boom is very real, with the advantages of efficiency and innovation compounding at companies like Tesla, Amazon, Uber, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Netflix, which are designed around leveraging technology.
  5. Many analysts have no idea what they are talking about.
  6. Betting against Elon Musk, which seemed to be very much in vogue two years ago, is a very, very bad idea.

We live in a time of amazing change in the world, and Tesla’s past week will go down in history as one of the most important triumphs in the history of business, and perhaps even the turning point at which humanity decided to act in concert to solve a problem that transcends governments and borders: global warming.

Congrats to Elon and the team.

Best, @jason

PS – I always follow Tesla closely, but this time around I was able get the highlights from the Inside Daily Brief without needing to sift through all the noise. Check it out and let me know what you think!

PPS – At the 2016 LAUNCH Festival I hosted a VC panel with Hunter Walk, Aileen Lee, and Jed Katz. A great discussion you can watch here.

Tesla Model 3 Giveaway / Sweepstakes / Contest

As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Tesla Motors. I own the 16th Tesla Roadster and the Signature 0000001 of the Model S. Found it very touching that Elon took the time to thank the owners of Roadsters, Model S, and Model X for, essentially, underwriting the innovation and platform that has enabled the $35,000 Model 3.

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While I’m sure early adopters helped, the truth is, the person who saved Tesla and is responsible for this moment is Elon himself. He plowed his entire net worth and life into the company, year after year, and it almost broke him a couple of times. I’ve never seen anyone accomplish so much at such slim odds.

Over 200,000 folks have pre-ordered the Model 3 in the past 48 hours, making it what must be, on a dollar basis (200k X $40k average price = $8b), the largest pre-order for a product in history — basically it’s over double all Kickstarters put together.

Stunning, especially considering most folks thought this company would fail.

I want to give away a Model 3 in a contest for subscribers of Inside.com’s daily email, and I need some legal and technical advice. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. To enter the contest, someone signs up for Inside.com and remains an active subscriber (i.e., they open it and/or click on a link every week or so).
  2. When we hit 1m subs we give away the car to someone on the active subscriber list (i.e., someone who has validated their email, has opened or clicked on a link in the newsletter in the past two weeks, etc.).
  3. Avoid gaming where someone signs up with 100,000 burner emails (I think a Captcha, email validation and/or Facebook login would avoid this nicely).

Thoughts on how to execute this?

If we get to 1m subs, and half or 1/3rd stick around because they love the Inside daily email, the $35,000 Model 3 cost would put the email acquisition cost around a dime or two (which would work for us).

Note: I can’t promise we’re going to get this done, but if we do figure out how to do it we’ll figure out a way to give our first 50,000 subscribers double the entries — so go ahead and give Inside.com a shot, it’s an awesome product that will save you hours a day and make you more informed.

best @jason

Join the greatest incubator ever created

We just graduated two sessions of the LAUNCH Incubator in March (two cohorts of seven), and they were our strongest class to date!

During the incubator, these 14 startups met with over 30 investors and have raised millions of dollars already — it’s been fantastic to watch.

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We are going to do another seven startups in the LAUNCH Incubator Spring class, which starts on April 20th (we’re 420 friendly, if you have a cannabis startup and are wondering), and ends on July 14th at our annual Bastille Day party — which is taking place on the last day of our new Angel Summit, a two-day retreat for the 50 greatest angel investors on the planet.

Startups we’re looking for have three things in common:

  1. Founders who are hardworking and driven.
  2. Products that are finished — or near completion — and that have been executed at a very high level (more on this below).
  3. Products that operate in very large markets, that could result in a billion-dollar outcome.

If you’ve got an amazing idea or business plan, but you haven’t built your MVP, you aren’t ready for our Incubator yet, and you should finish your world-changing product, while coming to LAUNCH Festival and SCALE as our guest, and watching This Week in Startups (taking copious notes).

If you have finished your product, have an MVP, and have traction (or even if you’ve started to scale), you should join the Incubator. We had over 1,000 people apply for the last class, and accepted two sets of seven. This time around, we plan on doing seven startups and we’ve already selected three.

Four slots are open.

Continue reading Join the greatest incubator ever created

How to land early adopters with Product Hunt

Product Hunt is a great platform for getting early adopters to sample your product, and it’s at least 20x more effective than getting a HackerNews or TechCrunch story today — and 200x more effective than getting on legacy sites like TechMeme.

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Getting the first 100, 500 or 1,000 people to engage your product is hard, so it’s certainly an awesome resource if you follow some simple best practices:

  1. Only launch when you have a clever product that can get to the top 10. If you don’t have a product that’s as good as the top 10 over the past week, it’s best to focus on refining your product — because you only get one shot to put your product up (or one shot for a major version).
  2. Like the iTunes store, your graphics matter, so make sure you have killer screenshots.
  3. You’re not supposed to ask for votes, but everyone does. So, instead of asking for votes, make a list of your top 50 or 100 customers, friends and investors and ask them at 7am and again at 10am to “check us out on Product Hunt.”
  4. Respond to every comment people make.
  5. Credit all the people who worked on your product.

Product Hunt can be a nice bump for a product, and it’s certainly more effective than TechCrunch or Mashable articles these days, but it won’t make a crappy product awesome — only you can do that.

Continue reading How to land early adopters with Product Hunt

Four days off social media

Monday I started my 100-day retreat from social media and it’s been wonderful for my productivity and longer-form writing.

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Here is what I’ve done to keep myself from accidentally checking my social:

  1. I took Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram and put them on the last page of my iPhone apps, inside a folder — out of sight, out of mind.
  2. I turned off desktop notifications and logged myself out of Facebook and Twitter.
  3. I’ve replaced my social apps and autoloading pages with Wunderlist and Google Docs / Evernote (I can’t pick between the two).
  4. I started taking my journal with me to meetings and taking many more notes — and now when I get back to my desk I re-read my notes and think about what I wrote.
  5. We have been posting to social media things that my team needs to share with our audience, like clips from This Week in Startups, my blog posts and updates from Inside.com (which is having a little resurgency since we moved 100% to email).

Last night at poker I found myself wanting to check my phone over and over and I did open Twitter to do a search about a $600,000 bet by some degenerate poker players. They are basically betting that one of them can ride a bike from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. It sparked a $10,000 free-roll bet with another poker player that she couldn’t do it in 72 hours (she did).

I couldn’t actually find that information anywhere else, so I spent < five minutes on Twitter.

If you look at twitter.com/jason, it’s now essentially an RSS feed for this blog.

But What about News?

It’s my job to be informed, so I’ve focused my energy on reading four emails every day: two editions of LAUNCH Ticker and two editions of Inside.com Daily Brief. These take about three minutes each to read, with LAUNCH Ticker having 25-35 updates per email (too many, I told the team to pull it back to 15-20 per email), and Inside.com’s Daily Brief email having 15-20 updates (but about 2-3 links per story capsul). If I have time, I like to click on all the links in a story from Inside as they are selected to be either informative or entertaining (which I find fun).

Continue reading Four days off social media

Founders: Do not waste money on TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Alley

Last month we had 15,000 registered attendees at the LAUNCH Festival and we gave 250 startups free demo pit tables and five tickets each based on merit. The way we did this is, candidly, we don’t make a profit off our event.

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Seventy-five percent of the people in the DEMO PIT reported they met an investor (the other 25% certainly did meet an investor, but those investors didn’t uncloak — many, investors, including myself, don’t uncloak at events).

Have you done TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Alley? Please take this SURVEY and tell us how it went: https://launchevents.typeform.com/to/RcV2gA

TechCrunch Disrupt has taken my DEMO PIT model — which I came up with 9 years ago — and corrupted it. They are giving their demo pit tables to founders for only one day and they are charging founders $2,000 for two tickets.

If the Startup Alley is open all day, you’re going to pay $300-400 an hour to stand at your table. Not to mention you are going to have to fly to New York City with three people (what it takes to properly have a table), and you’re going to have to put yourself up for four days.

Four thousand dollars (with travel, at least) to do the Startup Alley is a huge waste of resources for your startup. Just think about what else your startup could do with $4,000. If your customer acquisition cost is $5 or $10, you’re going to get a lot more attention from angel investors by emailing them a chart that shows you’ve now got 200 or 400 new customers — trust me, this I know.

Continue reading Founders: Do not waste money on TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Alley

Have you done TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Alley ($4,000?! Rip off!)– email me!

I’m looking for some candid — and confidential — information around the experience startups have had buying a table for TechCrunch Disrupt’s $4,000 Startup Alley (which is based off my ‘DEMO PIT’ innovation from nine years ago — except I don’t charge for it).

Email me directly: jason@launch.co

subject: Startup Alley

1. Which city, What year

2. How much did you pay

3. Did you meet investors?

4. Was it worth it?

5. How likely are you to recommend it to a friend? 1 to 10?

6. What was it like, candidly?

Email to jason@launch.co (.co not .com). :-)

How to select your angel round valuation (aka “the $4m rule”)

“What should I set my valuation at?” countless founders have asked me. It’s not a perfect science, but since I invest in 30-40 startups a year personally, I probably have better data and first-hand experience than any single human being on the planet at this moment.

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Additionally, since 95% of my angel investments ask to me to syndicate their deals, my check size has gone from $25-250k to $50-$1m, making me the lead or co-lead in my deals.

For example, I recently syndicated five deals on AngelList at one time — something no one has ever tried. Four of the five deals were oversubscribed, and the final one is on track to close shortly. When you syndicate a deal people sometimes tell you why they passed, so I get massive information from the minds of angels on what they want to back, and more importantly, what they pass on — and why.

[ Note: if you want to angel invest alongside me, you can apply at jasonssyndicate.com ]

Twenty-seven startups have finished my incubator in the past year and I’ve introduced each to well over 50 investors, and I always ask those investors, “which two companies are your favorites and why?” Then I watch which ones they actually write checks to — if any.

Continue reading How to select your angel round valuation (aka “the $4m rule”)

For Sale: A Dozen YouTube Channels with 4M+ Subscribers

Now that Inside.com is 100% focused on our email newsletter, we’re looking for a new home for the following channels on YouTube. If you’re interested in discussing a deal, please ping me at this form.

My plan is to auction them off on May 1st if we don’t find a buyer by then.

It’s just amazing how much these channels have grown! My guess is that it would cost $1 to gain each subscriber we have on these channels (between content and marketing cost) — and three to five years.

The sale would include all of the videos and related IP.

100-day social media break

I’ve decided to take a 100-day break from social media in order to focus on some important projects I have brewing.

From March 21st until July 1st I’m going to attempt to focus on medium- and long-form content on my blog and Inside.com’s Daily Brief email. Oh yeah, Brockman sold my book, and I’m going to spend the next year writing it, so it’s time to get off the social media crack pipe.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/2Bd4A ]

I love social media. It’s given me a huge megaphone, but I’ve found myself starting and ending my days on Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram for at least 20 minutes combined. Those minutes add up to around 1,200 a month and I need those hours back. Also, sometimes that 20 minutes at night turned into an hour, and it simply feels unhealthy to get wound up debating stuff at midnight.

Like many of you, I go into defensive mode during the day, constantly responding to notifications on my desktop, iPad, and iPhone — as well as important emails. I’ve turned all notifications off and I’m staying off social during the day unless it’s to share a medium- or long-form piece of writing.

No social during the day should save another hour — that’s about two hours saved per day.

Continue reading 100-day social media break

My Angel Syndicate After Two Years: 902 Accredited Investors, 42 deals

In March 2014 we launched a deal for Calm.com to raise $200,000 on AngelList. That deal was oversubscribed and we closed $328,104 across 95 investors who ranged from $1,000 to $25,000 each.

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Eighty-four of the investors put in $5,000 or less, an amount considered impossible at that time, when angel deals had $25,000 minimums.

Today, my syndicate accepted its 902nd accredited investor.

Wow.

In 24 months we’ve done 42 deals, which is about one every two or three weeks.

We recently closed five deals in one month … we’re picking up the pace.

I wanted to say thank you to the AngelList team — especially founders Naval & Nivi — on creating this very unique platform that has helped so many founders to raise money and find employees over the past two years.

You can join the Rebel Alliance — if you’re an accredited investor — at http://jasonssyndicate.com

Best regards, @jason

PS – You never know, I might figure out how to get all of you “non-accredited investors” into the angel investing game with this Title III stuff that the SEC approved.

PPS – I wrote about the “trench run” syndicate 20 months ago — interesting contrast.

Mullet Style: How we’re covering Trump at the Inside Daily Brief

trump grimace

How the media covers Trump is a big discussion at the moment, as insults and face-grimace memes have evolved into physical violence and the reality that Trump is going to win the Republican nomination. Covering Trump is a must for cable news because, in addition to being the frontrunner for the GOP, he’s transforming their wobbly businesses into ratings and revenue machines. Even if the networks protest, a Trump presidency increases their revenue. Print publications, which have lost more than half of their revenue base in the past two decades, are in a similar boat: he’s the frontrunner and he sells papers.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/b5Ua0 ]

The Inside.com Daily Brief isn’t subject to the revenue pressure of the mainstream media (more on that in a minute), so we’re covering the Trump campaign two ways. First, here’s what you need to know, which you will find in the top news section of the IDB. Second, from a 30,000 foot level, here’s the commentary and cultural take on what’s going down, which is in the second half of the email.

We’re rocking the mullet: business up top, party in the back (of the email).

If you feel we are biased please hit reply and call us out — the daily@inside.com email goes to the entire team.

By calling us out you’re calling out @lons who writes the IDB, and who, although he is a kind of a socialist, and living in Los Angeles, he has a long history of working in journalism, many of those years with me, and he works tirelessly to be fair and balanced. He works for what many have described as a “libertarian capitalist” (me) from Brooklyn, who wants the newsletter to grow and be steered by a guiding principle of links that are “important & fascinating.”

Some of you are probably wondering about the sustainability of the newsletter. With 17,000 subscribers already, and over half opening every single email, we can cover the ~$20,000 a month burn rate of the business by making $700 a day with either one or two advertisements, or by hitting 2,000 folks paying/donating $10 a month to keep the lights on. My guess is we try both and hit profitability by the summer.  

Questions:

1. How do you think we’re doing with our coverage of Trump?

2. What do you think of our mullet?

Best @jason