Letters Home – West Coast

I was cleaning up my notes from the US trip when I realized that there are few more interesting things to write about. Kristo covered what happened in Boston and I wrote about NYC before. Here I will share some thoughts about west coast and overall.

 

Unfortunately we missed out on some of the fun meetings with Twitter and others who actually do something (versus investing…). This means that quite a few of the comments here are about investors. Whether the investors jokingly greeted us by saying "boy scout camp of Europe is here" or by saying "the group is in every way comparable to what they see at Y Combinator or 500 Startups demo day" it was great to sit down with some of who is who from Sand Hill Road.

 

One of the first that we visited was Khosla Ventures. What stood out to me in their investment strategy was how they make bold bets on technologies that they believe in. To the extent that when Vinod started the firm, he only used his personal money. That allowed him to do things that are fiscally irresponsible and to run this own science experiments… Quite crazy, eh?

 

The most interesting startups amongst VCs right now is probably Andreessen Horowitz. And what a startup it is – they have raised 2.7B in the three years of existence. That makes them a startup with a billion dollar run rate. All of the GPs in Andreessen Horowitz are ex founders/operators and their claim is that they really aim to provide extensive help to their investees. Which VC does not say this? But they have taken this way more seriously – having an internal "talent agency" (both executive level and engineering talent incl campus recruiting), "marketing ang pr" department and sales organization focused on fortune 1000. This does get close to being a real and useful service organization for their investee companies. Also recommend reading Ben’s blog which is full of super insightful pieces.

 

Something that we asked from every VC was obviously the question of investing locally versus globally. The answers differed from being very locally focused (because of their value add in the case of Andreessen Horowitz) to being much more open to international investments. But the generic theme from everyone on Sand Hill Road was that the bar is just much much higher in case you are an overseas company.

 

Word of the day when traveling around Sand Hill Road was definitely "inflection point".

 

Besides the VCs we met with Naval from AngelList. AngelList has got to be one of the biggest and most welcome changes in angel/seed investing and they are just getting started (democratizing access to funding… they are doing what we’re doing in some ways). Cant wait to see where they are a year from now. Also we had Scoble film us. Too bad its only one long piece not cut out to specific interviews, scroll to around 4:30 to see me pitch TransferWise. Lastly we played a short visit to LinkedIn. Who would have guessed that LinkedIn knows more about Microsoft (insert any large company name here) employees than Microsoft (any large company) themselves? Stats of the day from their campus is that there are 640M white collar professionals in the world. This gives LinkedIn quite a few more users to reach!

 

Premiere of the West Coast for us was the mini Seedcamp held in Google. Thanks to Google for hosting us! In addition to the usual mentoring we had the luck of hearing various Googlers give us a series of lightning talks:

  • * regulation – how to fight SOPA/ACTA. And I guess how to support JOBS should be added :)
  • * appengine – this was used by the Royal Wedding, peak activity was 32 kqps, 13M views on that day…
  • * maps is moving indoors and 3d – Street View goes inside Colosseum. And api for Street View and indoors. And Grant Theft Auto streetview. And lastly what was announced just recently is Google Maps in the Amazon (river, not cloud).
  • * Google Ventures – non-tradtional corporate vc arm, they invest for financial returns. A way of diversification? Because googles priorities change?

 

Wrapping this trip up is hard. In three weeks we had so many different meetings that its impossible to get them under one heading. Everyone got different things from the trip, depending on what they were looking for. Technology tourism (Facebook, Twitter, Google), inspiration (MIT, Idealab), fundraising (all that talk and as a result there are term sheets literally flying from US to Europe now), useful partnerships and more. Certainly very happy to have been there and oh it certainly was exhausting. Especially considering that both me and @kaarmann were doing it. Another cheers goes to the team at home for keeping the lights on and the machine running.

 

Now were glad to be back and focusing on running the business with full steam! Watch out for exciting news soon.

 

Lastly, here’s a re-union picture of #estonianmafia wiht the godfather Dave McClure. Reminds me that I should also share notes from Idealab, 500 startups, few runs accross the Golden Gate Bridge and up to the Hollywood sign in LA. And Stanford d.school visit and seeing Simple.com folks in Portland. And the finishing cocktails in Santa Monica (1, 2 & 3). Too much :)

 

Taavet

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