|Alfidi Capital sees the main stage at LAUNCH Festival 2017.|
It's interesting how tech subculture recognizes laziness among DevOps engineers as a desirable work trait. The preference acknowledges that techies with a strong interest in gaming and social media will solve business tech problems quickly and effectively, so they have more time to goof off. I would like to see this dynamic in action at a real startup workplace.
Nir Eyal caught my attention at LAUNCH Festival when he discussed lessons from his book Hooked. The hook/trigger, action/reward cycles drive emotional investments people make in their preferred services. Mr. Eyal noted that these habit-forming steps are at the core of business processes that Facebook, YouTube, and Google used to rapidly scale up from startup to huge successes. I believe startup founders can use his behavioral lessons in conjunction with their CustDev case studies to design addictive solutions.
It's never to early to think about exits, according to the gurus on hand. It's no secret that M+A strategies still favor acquisitions over IPOs for venture-backed startups. I always thought it was because the public disclosures and roadshows for IPOs require more involved work than the private market due diligence a buyer performs in an acquisition. One of the LAUNCH speakers opined that startups should think about which phase of their growth qualifies them to be in an acquiring corporation's due diligence pipeline. I thought the speaker was too limiting in stating that a Series B raise with a mature partner ecosystem was the sweet spot. The speaker also thought that a founder's yearlong relationship with the prospective acquirer's CEO builds trust leading to an acquisition. I guess that favors Stanford and Berkeley grads in the Bay Area, since those are the feeder schools for Silicon Valley's hottest startups and the venture firms backing them. I totally grok the admonition to keep startup board members in the lop on exit discussions and finding an acquirer with a matching business development strategy.
I am really convinced that corporate development people are just dumb trend followers after hearing about how "hot product" market validation often triggers a wave of interest in similar rapid acquisitions. It also implies that the work they do may be little more than supporting their CEO's confirmation bias if said CEO already has a favorite founder relationship in mind. I could point these CEOs to academic studies that most M+A deals fail to add value, but that would just upset them if they have their hearts set on deals with college pals running hot startups.
I paid close attention to the Investor Outlook speakers, because I'm an investor and someday I'm going to buy and sell everyone's sorry behinds like they're a bag of cheap candy. Here comes a blast of random commentary. Venture capitalists with operating experience have insights into product rollouts and recruiting scale-ups that matter to early stage growth startups. It occurred to me that I've never seen an ugly-looking VC firm partner; they all seem remarkably handsome. I shake my head hearing VCs wanting to pivot to AR/VR and agtech if they only have software experience; they don't know these verticals! Agriculture scaling is not the same as enterprise software scaling. The latest blockchain baloney is "ICO tokens" for crowdfunding, yet another misapplication of open-source transaction ledgers as nonviable currency. It's good that VCs are more interested in helping startups solve growth problems than in just doing financial engineering. It was interesting to hear one VC liking podcast monetization; IMHO voice and audio content like podcasts and audiobooks are an underutilized stream. The underutilization may be due to the difficulty of searching audio online. Audio needs better search, analytics, meta-tagging, and delivery platforms. I say the podcast revenue model could resemble freemium app revenue, with ads embedded somehow (perhaps with a visual tag on the audio console, similar to YouTube channel ads). Let's get back to the handsome VCs for a moment. They seem to like wearing expensive designer clothes with a casual chic, showing of wealth while implying they can be as informal as startup founders.
The LAUNCH Festival was the perfect opportunity for startups to show their wares at tables, booths, and pitch stages. I picked up literature from people pushing forestry drones and DIY hedge funds. The whole mash-up demonstrated why I have t live in this town and nowhere else. The next bonanza was somewhere on the expo floor. All the festival needed was some gourmet food trucks on site so the lunch lines would not have been so long. I'll be looking for those trucks at next year's LAUNCH Festival.