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7位风投家谈创业:我们为什么要给你投钱?

Zara Stone , The Hustle 2016年05月19日

是什么让风投家们毫不犹豫地拿出了支票簿?七位知名风投人士谈创业中的“人的因素”。

有一天,我的朋友跟我讲了他与图片应用Snapchat的最早的一位投资人之间的对话。我的朋友问那个投资人,他为什么要投资Snapchat,那名投资人的回答引起了我的兴趣:

“伊万非常坚持地认为,Snapchat之所以特殊,就是因为这个应用一打开就会自动显示摄像头界面。我不明白这一点为什么重要,所以我提出了质疑,而伊万则用看傻瓜一样的眼神看着我。

不不不,它必须得马上就能打开才行。你必须一点开Instagram就能直接使用相机。要不然就太愚蠢了,得点击很多次。”

我并不认为多点几次是多么大不了的事,但令我感到惊讶的是,一个只有22岁的年轻人,对于这样小的细节也如此固执,于是我认定他一定可以成功。所以我就给他签了一张支票。”

很多时候,我们经常忘记了这样一个事实:许多后来被人们称为“伟大”的公司,起初都是由一两个人在车库里折腾起来的。他们当时所做的事,在很多人看来都很疯狂、愚蠢、甚至不切实际。然而一家伟大的公司之所以能成其伟大,就是因为起初至少有一个人相信了它的潜力,愿意给它一次机会。

不管这个人是它的第一个顾客、第一名员工还是第一名投资人,总之,有人给了他们一次机会。

正是受这次对话的启发,我决定调查一下,看看一些知名的投资者究竟是基于什么原因,投资了那几家我比较喜欢的公司。

1、彼得•倪,光速创投(Lightspeed Ventures)合伙人

曾为Nest公司的CEO托尼•法德勒投资(该公司于2015年以32亿美元的高价售出)

“他们就算是去开快餐车,我们也会投资的。”在回顾他向托尼•法德勒的投资时,彼得•倪曾这样写道。他与法德勒是1991年在一家名叫General Magic的初创公司实习时认识的。他说,法德勒从一开始就是一名“鹤立鸡群”的员工。他行动迅速,一丝不苟,而且“永远滔滔不绝地谈论着公司的发展方向和战略。”这也给彼得•倪留下了难以磨灭的印象。

多年以后,托尼找到他来拉投资。彼得•倪说:“当时我们丝毫没有犹豫。我深信托尼和他的合伙人马特一定会做出一番大事业。如果他们是要这笔钱开快餐车,那也无疑将是一台改变游戏规则的快餐车!”

2、黄易山,Reddit前任CEO

曾向Balanced公司的CEO马丁•塔米兹投资。Balanced是一家主营支付业务的公司,曾获355万美元融资。

这家名叫Balanced的初创公司的支付业务由于始终不温不火,便于2015年7月关停了业务,将用户转给了另一家支付业务公司Stripe,然后闭门苦思下一步该怎么办。

然而在此之前的几年里,Balanced却曾获得过数百万美元的融资。他们又是如何说服投资人的?

黄易山在问答网站Quora上解释了他当初为什么决定向马丁•塔米兹投资。

“马丁并不是一般人,他足智多谋,百折不挠。在创业界浸淫一段时间后,你就会发现,那些坚持做事、能做成事的人与普通人真的是有区别的。马丁有着极强的职业道德,而且他总是从各个角度努力解决,这都给我们留下了深刻印象。这些东西听起来似乎是理所当然的,但实际上并非人人都具有这些特质。”

“因此,这些特质也是初创公司能够成功的一个先决条件。初创公司的创始人必须要能够表现出这种品质,因为它会‘传染’给团队的其他人。如果你没有继续努力、继续尝试的欲望,不去固执地全力向前推进,你就无法达到任何成就。”

黄易山的最后一个理由是:“他的产品相当不错,也是当时该领域里唯一的一个此类产品。”值得注意的是,他首先看中的是创始人的韧性和职业道德,其次才是实际的产品。

3、史蒂夫•凯斯,美国在线(AOL)联合创始人、前任CEO

曾向LivingSocial投资(该公司获得了9.3473亿美元融资)

史蒂夫•凯斯之所以会向LivingSocial融资,是因为他与这家公司的四名创始人都有交情,他们四人以前都曾在他手下工作过。凯斯回忆道,他们四个都是“优秀的人才”。因此他们决定创立一家做Facebook应用的公司时,他很干脆地为他们提供了一笔投资。史蒂夫发现,这家公司聚拢用户的速度极快,在很短的时间内就吸引了8000万名用户。同时他也发现,他们正在想方设法利用这一庞大的用户群生钱。

当这支团队拿着商业计划书又找到史蒂夫时,他表示:“很显然他们已经找到了窍门了,现在是猛踩油门、加大投资的时候了。”

4、杰森•卡拉坎尼斯

曾向Thumbtack和Uber投资(这两家公司目前的市值已分别达到13亿美元和680亿美元)。

“我曾经向Thumbtack和Uber投过资。当特拉维斯和马可拿着他们的计划书找到我时,我甚至没有费心思想过‘打车软件’和‘更好的免费分类广告网站’这两个点子是否能成功,因为我知道,这两个人一定能成功。光凭这些信息,就已经足以赌一把了。

这也就是所谓的‘杰森天使投资法则’,即:

你并不需要知道一个点子是否能够成功——只知道这个人能不能成功就够了。

五年后的今天,我依然在寻找着这样的信号,也就是看一个人是不是天生的成功者——哪怕他现在暂时处于失败中。我最喜欢的两个创业者都有过创业失败的经历,但我总是迫不及待地想看看他们下一步将做些什么。因为我知道,他们是注定能够成功的人,注定能够做出不平凡的业绩,所以最终他们肯定会成功的……就像伊隆•马斯克也是第三次创业才成就了SpaceX,第四次创业才成就了今天的特斯拉。在Uber之前,特拉维斯也先后创办过另两家公司——Scour和Red Swoosh。但正是他第三次的创业,才有了如今Uber的大红大紫。

优秀的创业者总会千方百计、排除万难地去争取胜利,因此,作为天使投资人,你并不需要过于担心电动汽车能不能火、打车软件能不能红、Medium.com究竟是一个平台还是一个出版物(目前已经成了一个热门话题)之类的问题。你只需要考虑你打算投资的这个人是不是一个能够成功的人。”

5、乔恩•米德维,众筹平台Our Crowd的CEO、风投资本家

曾向ReWalk公司投资,该公司是一个旨在为瘫痪人群提供帮助的机器人公司(2017年的营收入预计将达2100万美元)

“我们是与日本的安川公司一起投资的,安川公司跟着我们投资了1000万美元。我们之所以会投资那家公司,是因为它的创始人非常有激情,而且有过创办一家成功企业的经历。同时他也非常了解他打算解决的问题,并且提出了一个很好的解决方案。

这家公司面对的是一个巨大的且日益增长的市场。简单来说,他们的创业理念主要基于这样一个事实——目前为瘫痪人群提供的轮椅仍与100年前没什么实质变化。”

6、杰瑞•纽曼,Neu Venture Capital公司风险资本家

曾向移动分析服务公司Flurry投资700万美元(该公司2014年以2.4亿美元的价格出售给了雅虎)

纽曼对投资博客Full Ratchet表示:“我是Flurry前身那家公司的第一批投资人之一。我认识这家公司的创始人,我之前曾经与他共事过,所以和他特别熟。他打算把分析工具构建到第一代的iPhone应用里。于是iPhone的STK应用发布那天,他给我打了个电话说:‘我已经把这个分析解决方案构建出来了’。我说:‘很好,你应该构建那个东西’。他说:‘不是应该,我已经构建出来了。’我说:‘那不可能,他们刚把STK应用发布出来。’他说:‘我们这个是内测版本,但总之我已经弄出来了。’”

“我认为从这两件事上就很能看出这位创始人的特质。另外我还认识他们的技术员。他们两人一起创办了这家公司,我对他们二人都很了解。我知道他们是一个很好的团队,因为他们过去也在一起共事过。我觉得他们可以利用这种新技术第一个杀入市场,而这个市场本身也将成为一个相当庞大的市场——也就是iPhone应用市场。”

7、埃里克•加瑟,科技海岸天使(Tech Coast Angels,一个拥有300多个会员的天使投资组织)圣迭哥分会理事会成员兼高科技筛选副总裁

曾投资Portfolium公司(该公司获得了90万美元融资)。

加瑟对投资博客Full Rachet表示:“我认为,Portfolium是真正能够解决实际问题的优秀公司之一。我刚认识他们的CEO时,他还非常年轻。而且在他身上还发生过一个令人难以置信的故事。有一位天使投资人曾给过他一笔资金,对他说:‘听着,我相信你正在做的东西。我这就给你开张支票,你走吧!’然后他就给他开了一张支票。他拿着这笔钱去创办了一个平台,你可以把它想象成一个大学生版的LinkedIn。我知道这种网站至少已经有上百人做过了,但这家伙却有着很独特的想法。他想解决的,是他自己在大学毕业找工作时也曾遇到过的一个非常艰难的问题。不过他意识到,这个项目要想创业成功,他就必须先回到学校学习一下编程,才能构建好这个项目。因为他拿到的那笔种子资金很有限,他没法雇人去写代码。他没有去偷、去借,也没有去求人或者请朋友帮忙什么的,而是回到学校,自己花时间学习写代码,最后终于形成了一款MVP级别的产品。然后他就到了科技海岸天使来拉投资。

他来了之后,对我们说:‘瞧,我已经有了全美雇佣大学生最多的雇主之一。而且我和圣迭哥、加州等地的学校系统都有很好的关系。我们真心觉得在这方面大有可为。’从这些事情上,我看到了他在构建什么、他在做什么,投资对我来说也就成了一个自然而然的选择。他给人的感觉就是在解决一个需要被解决的问题,他的解决方案也相当聪明。而且他也考虑了收益的问题,但却并没有让收益问题左右他的决策。左右他的决策的仍然是用户。

这一点对我很重要。因为一般来说,创业者们一旦见了现金,他们的重心就会被现金吸引了去,从而放松了对用户的关注,特别是在这种早期阶段。所以在尽职调查会议开完后,他当时正要去找当地的另一家企业孵化器,我拉住了他,并且把顾问拉到旁边说:‘你需要多少钱才能挺过接下来的三个月?这样我们就可以通过尽职调查,搞定这笔合作。你需要多少钱才能撑下来?’可以说我甚至愿意当场写张支票给他,原因仅仅是由于其他某个人也相信他——你可能会说我疯了。但如果有人愿意直接为他开张支票,然后说:‘快走吧,把它做出来。’这必然是有原因的。另一个因素则是他非常注重用户,不想为了追逐现金而改动自己的业务模式。所以我对他的业务模式也有信心。”

总结

每名投资人都希望在创业者身上看到不同的东西,但是激情、理解和智慧却是决定你能否拿到那些支票的关键。所以创业者一定要做好市场调研,为人们带来真正的价值,并且永远不要忘了把重心放在用户身上。只要你能证明自己的实力,那么你在寻求投资的时候,就会收获更好的结果。你的实力可以通过专注度和用户群来展示,而并不一定非要通过收益流。

如果你满足了上面的这几点,你的融资之路将变得容易许多。祝你好运!(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

The other day my bud told me about a conversation he had with one of Snapchat’s first investors. My bud asked the investor why he invested in Snapchat. The investor’s response intrigued me:

“Evan was so insistent that what made Snapchat special was that when the app opened it automatically showed the camera. I didn’t understand why that was important, so I pushed back. When I did, Evan looked at me like an idiot.

‘No, no, no – it has to open up right away. You have to click to get to the camera on Instagram. That’s stupid. Two too many clicks.’

I didn’t think it was a big deal to have that many clicks, but I was impressed that a 22-year-old would be that headstrong about something so small that I figured he would make it. So I wrote him a check.”

Far too often we forget that the companies we consider to be great were once a couple of folks tinkering in a garage. What they were working on seemed crazy, impossible, or stupid. However, what makes a great company a great is that at least one person early on trusted the business enough to give it a shot.

Whether they were the first customer, employee, or investor, someone gave them a chance.

And so, inspired by this conversation, I decided to find out what inspired investors to commit to some of my favorite companies.

Peter Nieh, Partner at Lightspeed Ventures

Invested in Tony Fadell, CEO of Nest (sold for $3.2 billion in 2015)

“We would have invested had they been looking to start a food truck,” Peter Nieh wrote about his investment in Tony Fadell, CEO of Nest. Peter met Tony in 1991 during a summer internship at a startup called General Magic. He said Tony was “a standout” employee from the very beginning. This was because Tony was fast, meticulous, and “wouldn’t shut up about the company direction and strategy.” This left a long-lasting, positive impression on Nieh.

Years later when Tony came to him for investment, Peter said: “There was no hesitation from my partnership.” He “had a deep belief that Tony and Matt [his partner] would make something BIG happen no matter what — it would have been a game-changing food truck no doubt!”

Yishan Wong, former Reddit CEO

Invested in Matin Tamizi, CEO of Balanced, a payment startup that raised $3.55 million

Startup Balanced closed shop in July 2015 after failing to make their payments business work. They transferred their customers to Stripe, and sat back to figure out their next steps.

But in the few years they were running, Balanced raised million of dollars. How did they convince people to invest?

Yishan Wong explained on Quora why he invested in CEO Matin Tamizi.

“Matin is an unusually resourceful and relentless guy. After being in startups (working for them, helping them out), you start to see a difference between people who keep on going and get things done, and regular people. What impressed us was how strong his work ethic was and how he would constantly work from a variety of angles to overcome problems. This stuff all sounds obvious, but not everyone actually does it.

So that is one key prerequisite to a good startup (so far as I can tell) – the founder(s) have to exhibit this trait, because it extends into the rest of the team. If you don’t have the will to keep going, keep trying, and generally be pretty stubborn about pushing ahead always, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

Wong’s final reason was that “the product is pretty good, and as far as I can tell, it’s the only one in its space.” Note that the actual product took a backseat to the tenacity and work ethic of the CEO.

Steve Case, co-founder and former CEO of AOL

Invested in LivingSocial (raised $934.73 million)

Steve funded LivingSocial because he had a relationship with the four founders, who’d worked for him before. He said they were “great guys” and invested some money in their first business, a Facebook apps company. Steve observed how quickly they gathered users – around 80 million in a short time period – but noted how they struggled to monetize them.

When the team came up with a social commerce plan, Steve said: “It was clear they were on to something and it was time to slam down the accelerator and invest heavily.”

Jason Calacanis

Invested in Thumbtack and Uber (now valued at $1.3 billion and $68 billion, respectively)

“I invested in Thumbtack and Uber. When Travis and Marco came along with their ideas, I didn’t even try to judge if “on-demand drivers” and “a better craigslist” were winners, because I knew the individuals were winners. That’s enough information to make a bet.

Which leads me to “Jason’s Law of Angel Investing,” which states:

You don’t need to know if the idea will succeed – just the person.

After five years of this, I’m always looking for signals that the person is a winner – even in failure. Two of my favorite founders have had their asses handed to them, and I’m chomping at the bit to see what they will do next, because I know they’re winners who do great work, so eventually they will hit it… just like Elon hit SpaceX on his third swing at bat and Tesla on his fourth, and Travis hit Uber after Scour and Red Swoosh, his first two startups.

Great founders grind it out and figure it out, so as angels you really don’t need to overthink if electric cars will work, whether on-demand transportation will scale, or if Medium.com is a platform or a publication (hotly debated) – you just need to know if someone is a winner.”

Jon Medved, CEO of Our Crowd and Venture Capitalist

Invested in ReWalk, a robotics company that helps paraplegics ($21 million estimated 2017 revenue)

“We co-invested alongside the robotics Yasakawa Company, which invested $10 million with us. What led us to go into that company was the fact that the entrepreneur was truly passionate, someone who had a track record that had already built a successful company and he understood this problem very well and came up with a great solution.

The company was addressing a huge and growing market, which is inclusion, the idea that people today who are paralyzed are still sitting in wheelchairs that really haven’t changed much in 100 years.”

Jerry Neumann, Venture Capitalist at Neu Venture Capital

Invested $7 million in Flurry, a mobile analytics service (sold to Yahoo! for $240million in 2014)

“I was one of the first investors in the company that became Flurry. I knew the founder. I had worked with him previously, so I knew him very well,” Neumann toldFull Ratchet. He had decided to build analytics into the first generation of iPhone apps. So he called me that day the iPhone app STK was released and said, “I’ve built this analytics solution.” And I think I said, “That’s great, you should build that.” He said, “No, I’ve already built it.” I said, “That’s not possible, they just released it.” He said, “Well, it’s our beta version, but it’s — I’ve got it.” And then I invested.

I think the two things were really knowing the founder and I also knew their technical person. So the two people who started the company, I knew them really well. I knew they were a good team because they worked together in the past. And I felt like there was this new technology that they could take advantage of and be first to market in something that I thought was gonna be a really big market, this iPhone app market.”

Eric Gasser, VP at Hi-Tech Screeningand Board Member at

Invested in Portfolium (raised $900,000)

“One of the great companies that I thought was solving a problem is called Portfolium,” Gasser toldFull Ratchet. “Their CEO was a young kid when I first met him, and he has an amazing backstory where an angel gave him some capital and said ‘Look, I believe in what you’re doing. I’m just gonna give you a check and just go.’ So he gave him a check, he went to build out this platform to allow — basically think of it as the LinkedIn for college students, right. It’s been done a hundred times, and I get it, but this guy had a unique spin on it. He built something similar to solve a really hard problem for himself when he graduated from school to get himself a job.

He realized that, for him to be successful, he needed to go back to school and learn how to code so he can build this thing. Because he knew the seed money he’d gotten — he wasn’t gonna be able to pay someone to do it, it just wasn’t enough. So instead of beg, borrow, and steal, and all the other friends and fools and all that con stuff, he went back to school, spent some time, I think, while he was in school, wrote — built out an MVP, and then he came to Tech Coast Angels.

And he said ‘Look, I’ve had one of the largest employers for college kids in the country. I’ve got great connections with the school system here in San Diego, in California. We really think there’s something here.’ It was one of those things where I could see what he was building, I could see what he was doing, and it was kind of a no-brainer for me. It was kind of like he’s solving a problem that needs to be solved, and he’s doing it really, really intelligently. And he was thinking about revenues, but they weren’t actually driving his decision making. The customer was driving the decision making.

And that meant a ton to me, because typically what happens is, the founders, once they see cash, they gravitate towards the cash and lose focus on the customer. Especially this early stage. And so during the due diligence meeting, we were done, he was going through a local incubator at the time, and I grabbed him. The advisor, I pulled him aside and said ‘Look, how much do you need to stay alive for the next three months so that we can go through due diligence, we can syndicate this deal, everything we need to keep it going?’ and I was willing to write a check right then solely based on the fact that someone else believed in him — which could mean I’m crazy, but when someone writes a check and says ‘Go away and build it,’ that means something. The next element was that he really believed in his customer and didn’t want to pivot or shift his model to follow the cash. I believed in that model.”

The takeaway

Every investor looks for different things in their entrepreneurs, but passion, understanding, and smarts are key to getting those checks. Do your market research, provide a real value to people, and never forget the focus on the customers. You’ll get a better response if you reach out once you’ve proved yourself – and this can be shown through dedication and user-base, not necessarily a revenue stream.

You’ll have a way easier time if you check all these boxes. Good luck!

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