I watched the presentation of Jason Calacanis’ Launch Accelerator Cohort 16 today. It is seven companies presenting to a bunch of early stage funds and “seed” investors. (On the chance their names are still confidential I’ll hold off sharing them.) I’ve made one small investment in a company Launch has presented. It is Blokable, which so far appears to be doing well but there are many miles to go before that investment can rest easy.
The ritual dance between startup and angel is something I used to regularly attend in meat space, ever hopeful of finding something interesting. In San Francisco many years you could fill a calendar with such demos.
Most over the years – as expected – were not great. There would be flaws very evident in the business, the executive presenting, or both. However, from my first ones (at Keiretsu Forum, 2006?) to today a few things have changed.
The founders are generally better now. Far better. The business plans more refined. The products themselves further into the market, many with substantial traction and revenue. These are the table stakes now. Two engineers and a dream unless their records are astonishing aren’t going to get funding — and those that do don’t do it in these angel forums. Y Combinator, 500 Startups, and others like Launch have really helped educate the firms to maximize their chances of success not just in funding but as businesses.
Still, with capital so widely available, and so much less of it necessary, the best deals are already off the table for investors. If there was ever a pareto distribution it is in startups. You need to be part of the best deals. One of today’s presenters was interesting – a sports betting site that has a twist the cryptocurrency Augur is shooting for but not getting. We’ll see the valuation. It’s pretty unlikely in the end I’ll make another investment.
Despite the madness and unlikelihood of success (none of these accelerators save for YC, the OG, years ago has shared their investment returns), this is what a startup ecosystem looks like. It only really still lives in San Francisco.