#31 | Exit Masterclass for Startups, Funding, Angeling, And Some Counter-Concepts

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  1. Startup Exit Masterclass: For VCs, founders and M&A execs

  2. Talks and Writings: Exits, Angel Investing, Fundraising

  3. Culture Corner: Visits to Mozart & Freud’s Pads

  4. Thoughts: Robots, Counter-concepts, Quick note on JP


By VCs for VCs, founders and M&A execs.

Fortune favors the prepared - don’t leave money on the table! Learn from successful CEOs, investment bankers, investors and more at those first-of-their-kind events.

June 5: London | June 12: Paris | June 19: SF | June 22: NYC

Why learn early about exits?
I wrote about it here.

If you’ve raised a seed round or more, it is time to include a new item in your routine: creating options for exit (especially since 90% of exits are M&A and 80% happen at series B or earlier).

Featuring speakers from JUMP Bikes (just sold to Uber), Guitar Hero (sold to Activision), Cisco, NASDAQ, London Stock Exchange, and many more.


I wrote a couple of pieces.

Why Founders Need to Prepare Early For Exits
Better exit through the gift shop! Preparation is key to a successful exit, and it starts as early as series A (or before).

The Hacker Guide to Angel Investing (on Hackernoon)
Summing up a decade of casual angel investing: it’s all about networks (more than picking skills), signaling, optics and discipline.

How to Get Funding for Your (Hardware) Startup
Initially written with hardware in mind, but works for others too. It has some connections with the angel investing piece as it highlights networks, but also what to do when you don’t have one! Includes 5 words starting with T and 8 with C.

I also answered a few podcast interviews
China Tech Talk: China’s innovations, Shenzhen and more
Analyse Asia: a follow up to my reply to Mike Moritz visit to China and FT piece
Jay Kim Show: Ecosystems, entrepreneurial culture, Shenzhen/China



I visited Mozart’s house in Vienna. Quite a nice pad he had! Apparently heating was an issue though. Among the interesting bits:

  • At top speed he was producing 6 sheets with 12 lines of music per day.

  • He was earning quite a lot (over 100 times a maid’s income - see below) for performances (private and public), compositions and teaching. He didn’t die in poverty. He was buried in a “Common Grave” which means he wasn’t an aristocrat, but it was an individual one.

If we consider a rate of 1:400 to USD, the minimum wage of primary school teacher was 150 florins = $60,000 (that’s the high end — the U.S. average is $40,000 — but maybe the profession was better compensate then). Mozart then earned over $1M a year. Compared to top artists today it’s not that insane. That puts a Church musician, maid and choir singer at a mere $10,000/year, a Count at $8M/year and a Prince at over $40M/year. Are the gaps wider today?


I also visited the Freud Museum in Vienna. Sadly, he packed most of his stuff when he left to London and the exhibits are quite weak. I think even the famous couch was a replica. Freud has a large collection of sculptures and other items, but only a small display was visible there.


Robots Exit Here

This is it, I’ve had enough of Pepper-the-robot. It was a brave attempt a few years ago, but now it’s becoming like an old joke. After my rant about the humanoid robot at Cube Tech in Berlin, I’ve seen Pepper at both Pioneers in Vienna and Vivatech.

I hereby declare that humanoid robots are to technology what porn is to love = very visual, and far removed from the real thing.

Event organizers and the media fuel this sci-fi myth and “innovation theatre”. It is as if they were still promoting steam engines once electricity came about. “We can see steam, it’s impressive! We might fly like birds with steam one day!” or something like “one day everything will be nuclear”. Let’s stop this nonsense.

Counter Concepts

We’ve had a good serving of #metoo, #safespaces and #toxicmasculinity. It’s now including #enablers (of Weinstein, especially). Conversations have become difficult around those topics — suffering often from loaded questions and guilt by association.

Here are a few ‘counter-concepts’ (for lack of a better word) that could help bring back a bit of sanity:

#toxicfeminity (#bigsister?) — Women can go too far. How far is too far? I’m thinking especially how the most extreme activists tend to drag moderates to their side by shame them from taking their distances.

#babelization — The downside of extreme diversity: everyone speaking their own language, becoming unable to communicate. Would gender and ethnic diversity still bring better results of communication breaks down? The reason startups can move fast at the beginning is because founders know and trust each other, and communicate well within the team (race and gender don’t necessarily matter). To pick one among many: would Facebook had done so well if it hadn’t been a bunch of friends from Harvard?

#hypergamousmen — Men seeking only partners of higher status. Could that rebalance the 50% of women who are with a partner at least 2 years older than them? (another other 32% are within a year of each other, and 15% of women are over a year older)

#meninschool — As women are now outnumbering men at graduation (since 2014), the status / income part might start to tilt the other way. The new generation of men going to college (and those not going to college) is having trouble at school and enduring the criticism directed to their gender, largely due to older men. I am not sure how to call that: sexageism?


#noofficeromance — People tend to find partners among the people they spend time with. As a result, 1/3 of people have dated a coworker. How to reconcile this situation with company policies? For instance Google discourage employees from involving themselves with colleagues they manage or report to, Amazon requires managers to disclose relationships with direct reports and Facebook has no official rules and asks employees to think about the impact of relationships.

One Nobel Prize winner said that with women in labs You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry. He received a lot of criticism for his candid remarks, but if you read between the lines there is nothing very surprising: they are co-workers.

The true difficulties are likely that

(1) You can’t move people as easily in labs/academia
(2) Members (men and women) are not easily replaceable
(3) Men are often at a loss handling emotions (theirs and women’s)
(4) Science attracts more men then women (even in egalitarian Scandinavia)
(5) It takes years to become a lab boss, so most are still men despite the growing support for women in STEM.

It seems to me that the way forward is better policies (at least for transparency), emotional intelligence training, and more work mobility. Another option is single-gender labs, but I’m not sure anyone seriously wants that!

A Quick Note on Jordan Peterson

I find his observations worth listening to — agreeing with him is not mandatory — but beware of how his critics represent him.

Good ol’ JP took some heat again for using the little known term ‘enforced monogamy’. I'll let him explain himself. Did JP choose it to cause a stir and expose both the ignorance and the disingenuity of his critics? That would be pushing it.

Still, the repeated attempts at character assassination are doing a disservice to the public debate, and end up alienating many allies when they find out.

Done! Are shorter letters better? Lmk.