Joanne Wilson’s Top Insights | Angel S5 E10

Top Insights


  • Raising at a juiced valuation can have devastating downstream consequences for a startup.
  • Recent momentum in funding underestimated founders has helped firms realize the opportunity of having a diverse team of investors.
  • It is harder than ever to be a “generalist” investor. To succeed in today’s market you need a thesis.
  • Portfolio management near the peak is key to thriving in a down market.

Background / Intro


  • Joanne Wilson is a blogger, businesswoman and angel investor with 130+ investments.
    • She mostly invests in women and underestimated founders.
  • Back in the 1990’s, Joanne was Jason’s top sales executive at Silicon Alley Reporter and taught him a very important lesson: sales solves everything. “If you have a great person who can sell, everything goes in the right direction.” – Jason Calacanis

Spotting a bubble, impact of juiced valuations on startups


“… we’ve seen it so many times over the past 20 years. (Founders) end up with a down round even though (they’ve) done a good job.”

“(After raising a down round) that company is damaged. And then institutional investors have moved on into something new and something else and you’re f****d.”

Joanne Wilson
  • How raising during a bubble can create downstream issues:
    • Founders raise at an inflated valuation, and then have to put up crazy numbers to justify a higher valuation in their next round of funding
    • So, even really good companies can “get ahead of their skis” and fail to justify their mid-bubble valuations
    • If a company then raises a down round, that puts a black mark on their resume that is hard to erase, especially if VC money starts drying up
      • or, as Joanne puts it: “You’re f****d.”
  • There is a direct correlation between media sales and the strength of the overall economy
    • According to Joanne, you can check the thickness of each issue of her four decade Vogue collection to see how the economy was doing that year
  • Ad-based companies should bank as much revenue as possible (and even create new inventory if necessary), because high demand won’t last forever

Positive changes to diversity in venture capital over the past 15 years


“There is a whole group of amazing black founders that no one who is a white investor has ever seen. It was the same thing when I started investing in women, there were all these amazing women out there but no one wanted to meet them…” – Joanne Wilson

  • More women and people of color are starting companies and becoming venture capitalists, so the industry is being changed from both sides
  • It’s been 15 years in the making, but the venture industry is finally starting to see real change with funding dollars moving in the right direction
  • Seeing a team page with a bunch of white males on it is an immediate red flag for some investors
  • Investors are funding and hiring people of color for different reasons:
    • some are doing it because they care about making real change
    • others are ashamed at the lack of diversity in their portfolio and on their team
      • both reasons are helping drive change

Difficulty of being a “generalist” investor in 2021, portfolio management in a bubble


“…as an angel you need to take money off the table when it has gotten silly.”

Joanne Wilson
  • Being a generalist investor was great 15 years ago when there were fewer startups overall
  • To be a generalist investor in 2021 you need a team of people around you for market research, diligence, etc. since there are so many startups doing similar things
  • Portfolio management in a bubble:
    • Some greener VCs have never seen a down market
    • Selling a percentage of your winners at or near the peak is a great way to hedge against a rapid downturn
    • For example, Joanne’s husband Fred Wilson lived through this during the dot-com crash of 2000

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