MIT VC and Innovation Conference

Event Reflections
01.19.2016

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This year, I got a chance to attend the MIT VC and Innovation Conference. It was not possible without the support of one of my favorite organizations – Women Who Code. Women Who Code is a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. They have chapters in each city where they hold classes introducing women to tech (coding). They have a weekly newsletter [CODE Review] which includes topics such as quotes from inspiring women in tech, ticket give aways to conferences and discount for tech events etc. This is how I got the ticket to attend MIT VC and Innovation conference. You can subscribe to their newsletter hereor view their last newsletter here.


Now on to the conference notes and learnings:


Panel 1: VC Business Model Innovation


[Bob Higgins Waterline Ventures and Highland Capital Partners; Elizabeth Yin – 500Startups; Jay AcunzoNextView; Kaidi RuusaleppFunderbeam; Christopher MirabileLaunchpad]


  • Make sure you know who is the lead investor in your seed round – @cmirabile
  • Traditional VC’s are like the mainframe, but we are living in the era of iPhone. Traditional VC model is not sustainable. It is partly a self inflicted wound and partly that the economy changed – Bob Higgins


I later came across this article by @cmirabile which I thought was excellent – 10 Due Diligence Survival Strategies for Entrepreneurs


Keynote – Investing Globally (New Innovation Hubs) | Anis Uzzaman – Fenox Ventures


I really enjoyed this talk and learned a great deal about investment opportunities – especially in Asia. It was really interesting to learn why Fenox Ventures chose to open an office in Bangladesh, why India was a bit of a challenge. His talk was agreat example of how VC’s can get involved in the business and help entrepreneurs grow their business (including globally). One such example Anis shared was TechInAsia , how they helped them move to Silicon Valley (YCombinator) which helped them grow globally.


Not too many people talk about how investor can help founders and share their stories. This talk was awesome – even from a founders point of view about what can come along with the $ (especially for early stages).


Keynote – Innovation and Change in the VC Industry | David Fialkow, General Catalyst


  • On starting a tech company: It is true that starting a tech company has never been easier for multiple reasons. Access to capital is easier, technology needed is cheap enough to get started (AWS etc). He also added – there is no better time to start a business… (in Boston) :).
  • Ignore what you read in papers, ignore bubbles – no better time to start a tech company.
  • On opening offices outside of Boston: “VC is a local business”, he added. It is not an investment business, it is a relationship business. He spoke about opening offices outside of Boston because it is a local business. It is very easy to lose out on the deals if you are not present locally.
  • Mentors: There are great mentors in every city. Find the people who you want to work with, who are local.
  • On teams: Great founders build great businesses not because they have great investors but because they have great teams (which investors can also help build).
  • Product People: Great founders are typically product people!
  • Be Agile: Nobody has ever done what they said they were going to do. It is important to be agile and just go with it.
  • Incubators: I don’t like the work incubators. Because in that they put sick babies. I prefer the term hatcheries. {iLike}


Fireside Chat – Evolution of VC / Entrepreneur Relationship | James Geshwiler (Converge Venture Partners) and Graham Brooks (406 Ventures)

JG:


  • When you raise (as a founder), you should really ask what else comes along with the $.
  • Entrepreneurs do not do enough diligence on their investors. Investors do a lot of diligence on the founders. This is extremely important because you will be partners for a long time. It is more binding than marriage.
  • Founders are mainly looking for advice at early stages. At late stage, they are not really looking for advice (once they have already found a product market fit)


GB:


  • First time founders from Boston get a bad rep. They are usually students and they end up doing consumer oriented companies. Often the most revolutionary ideas come from first time entrepreneurs
  • What we look for in entrepreneurs
  • Horse power (brilliant)
  • Demonstrated ability to execute
  • Coachable


Keynote – Disruption in Seed Stage Investing | Chris Lynch (Accomplice)


I have never heard anyone say this but it’s kinda true when you come to think of it….(about accelerators)


  • Zuckerberg would have been successful whether he went through @ycombinator or the McDonald’s drive through.
  • When I meet with former accelerator companies, I feel like a plastic surgeon – the 2nd one you go to after you have had a bad nose job.
  • Talking about challenges – I have had 4 successful outcomes after failing multiple times


Personally, I have thought about accelerators mainly for networking and $. I personally feel that if you don’t get $ or brilliant mentors being part of the accelerator, it can actually be a total waste of your time. Most of the time you can get all of that separately as well (without being part of one) – A piece of advice given to me by an angel investor in Boston after getting a rejection from YC.


Last but not the least, yesterday I came across this 5 minute interview of Brian Chesky – where he shares how they started AirBnB, something you might be already aware of. But I really enjoyed the part where he actually shares how they felt everyday waking up (before AirBnB was huge) and loved this quote :


“I would rather fail doing something I love than wonder what could have been” – bc

I am pretty sure many founders feel this way. I do!

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