The latecomer advantage in startups
Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced take on this week’s startup news and trends by Senior Reporter and Equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.
Sometimes, due to the nature of the startup game, we over index on “the new.” Companies want to build for the pain point you never dreamed to disrupt; VCs want to invest in an emerging trend before it becomes a household name; and those breaking into tech are told to lean into their earnestness, because you never know who is going to answer your cold email. In order for entrepreneurship to feel exciting and welcoming — not even be, but feel — new needs to be one of its loudest characteristics.
After all, you only get to be “it” once.
But one question I’ve found myself asking over the past year, especially as some of the more tenured folks speak about past downturns and cyclical learning lessons, is the latecomer advantage. It’s partially obvious: When you’ve done this whole entrepreneurship thing before, you understand what mistakes to avoid and seamlessly know which investors to dodge.
But it’s also partially not as easy of a story. There’s a difference between being new and being inexperienced, the same way there’s a difference between experienced and being late. How do you know where you are on that entire timeline — especially when the stories feel better to tell at the extremes?
This week on Equity, I interviewed T2 co-founder Sarah Oh, who is building a Twitter rival after working at Twitter as a human rights adviser. Quite quickly, I asked her how building a copycat of your former employer makes you feel. She seemed unbothered, to which I promptly said: All is fair in love and moderation.
But the better answer that Oh gave me was around the latecomer advantage that she has, building a company in a world that she knows extremely well. By joining the consumer social wave today versus before anyone even thought in characters and retweets, the co-founder thinks they get to factor in more of the nuance.
“There’s a lot that we know about gaps in trust and safety in the industry, whether it’s datasets that we need, or models that need to be built, or certain standards that need to exist for models, right, there’s a whole laundry list of things that I wish I had in my previous roles that just didn’t exist, we’re now at a place where we can have those conversations,” Oh said. She added that when some of the first social media platforms were being created, there weren’t “historical case studies or precedent” for a lot of the controversies that now exist. With some of the ugly out of the way — my words, not hers — T2 has examples it can refer back to on how to handle tensions around virality, doxxing and more.
It just made me think about that larger comprehension coupled with the nimbleness of a startup. Maybe, it’s being both old and new that might be the striking balance that helps a startup start up. In this case, we have no idea how the old or the new attempts at Twitter are going to do, but we do know that this time has never mattered more.
In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll talk about chief inspiration officers, growing startup accelerators and a rare buzz we’re hearing about one tech company and its public market wishes. As always, you can follow me on Twitter or Instagram.
Goodbye, chief inspiration officer
Also on Equity this week, the crew spoke about how venture capitalists are going to pay more attention to how portfolio founders are spending capital — especially around hiring trends. Becca’s latest for TC — use code EQUITY for 50% off an annual membership — gets into why the hiring slide in the pitch deck is no longer going to be a throwaway part of the presentation.
Expect more scrutiny.
Here’s why this is important: We know that companies are dropping staff to cut costs, but those that are hiring may have to take a more conservative approach in both types of roles and level of pay. All to say, there’s definitely an opportunity to find talent if you are hiring. But, it won’t be easy for all laid-off talent to find their next gigs, especially as employers look to hire cheaper talent with less ambitious staffing goals.
- My big question is if VCs are taking the same advice that they’re dishing. Don’t forget VCs, you have VCs too. (At least most of you do!)
- Burned by layoffs, tech workers are rethinking risk
- Waymo lays off staff as Alphabet announces 12,000 job cuts
- Laid off from your crypto job? Here’s what founders are looking for in new talent
- Crypto recruiters see opportunity to snatch up talent amid Big Tech layoffs
The Goldilocks moonshot
NextView Ventures has launched its fourth accelerator program, aiming to back around half a dozen founders with $400,000 in funding and mentorship opportunities. It’s also offering at least one spot to a team built by ex-colleagues who have been laid off over the past downturn.
Here’s why this is important: The accelerator partners are open to backing founders even if they have a half-baked idea or only an area that they want to dig into. Even in a more disciplined market, there are some firms that are still comfortable seeding ideas versus fully fledged business ideas. “It’s almost half a step earlier than we’ve typically thought of” portfolio companies, Rob Go, founding partner, NextView Ventures, said, of the cohorts.
- I was thinking about this idea when speaking to NEA’s Scott Sandell earlier this week. The 45-year old venture firm closed in on a $6.2 billion pair of funds, one of which is wholly dedicated to new early-stage investments. Sandell said he’s looking for “the efficiency gene” when sourcing companies and wants proof that they know how to handle capital. Smart, and common. After our call, I joked that I’m curious if any VC firms are interested in backing startups that don’t care at all about discipline or capital efficiency. Wouldn’t that be a story? In a more serious way, I am interested in the early-stage focused venture capitalists that are taking risks right now and how that rewards certain sectors and backgrounds.
- Jumia’s investors rethink their stakes — for better and worse
- Cowboy Ventures goes bigger with $260M across two new funds, including an opportunity fund
- Another All Raise CEO steps down
- Sequoia, Marc Andreessen back early-stage fund Kearny Jackson
Stripe is eyeing an exit, finally. The payments giant has set a 12-month deadline for itself to go public, either through a direct listing or pursuing a transaction on the private market, such as a fundraising event and a tender offer, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Here’s why this is important: I mean, must I state the obvious? The public markets for tech companies have been stale, unwelcoming, insert boring adjective here. If Stripe does kick off a trend, we’re in for an exciting next year. But some are dubious on the timeline. After all, it’s literally easier said than done.
- Report: Stripe tried to raise more funding at a $55B-$60B valuation
- Method raises $16M to power loan repayment, balance transfers and more across fintech apps
- Being the steady hand in market uncertainty with Sebastian Siemiatkowski from Klarna
- And shout out to The Interchange, a fintech newsletter put together by the inimitable Mary Ann Azevedo. Read last week’s issue, here!
- A16z is hiring someone to run Tech Week. This should be fun.
- Recursive Ventures, a San Francisco-based firm investing in U.S. and Israeli early-stage companies, has closed over $11 million for its third fund, according to SEC filings.
- Will 2023 be the year of accountability? I enjoyed this piece by Eric Newcomer.
- If you missed Startups Weekly last week, catch my last issue here: “Tech forgot its umbrella.”
- TechCrunch is coming to Boston on April 20. I’ll be there with my favorite colleagues to interview top experts at a one-day founder summit. Book your pass ASAP!
Seen on TechCrunch
The thing we thought was happening with robotic investments is definitely happening
App downloads were stagnant in the fourth quarter, new analysis finds
Strava acquires Fatmap, a 3D mapping platform for the great outdoors
LastPass owner GoTo says hackers stole customers’ backups
Seen on TechCrunch
The current legal cases against generative AI are just the beginning
A VC’s perspective on deep tech fundraising in Q1 2023
As activist investors target Salesforce, what’s next for the CRM giant?
Laid off from your crypto job? Here’s what founders are looking for in new talent
Startups should expect more scrutiny from VCs on their hiring plans
I’ll end with the evergreen reminder that I absolutely love going to startup happy hours and VC dinners in San Francisco, so do let me know if you’re throwing one! And if you’re still working on your social engine like me, I’m also always game to do a 1:1 coffee chat or dumpling lunch.
To the rest of you, thanks for reading as always. 2023 is already soaring on by, isn’t it?
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.