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FW: This Week in the NYC Innovation Community...and an ask - March 18th, 2013

From: Dean C.
Sent on: Monday, March 18, 2013 8:33 AM

So I was reading this email this morning and wondered……where can I find out how many checks really are being written to NYC startups?

eg the news last year that Fred Wilson hasn’t invested in a single startup for 12 months and now the news that Brooklyn bridge has only ever written 6 checks in its lifetime as a Venture Capital fund I’m wondering … many startups really are being funded?


So my question for the hive this morning is this  ….”Is there a website or somewhere else that I can look at to see how many NY startups got funded in 2012”?

Should I quit  and get a day job J





Dean Collins
Founder – Live Fan Chat

[address removed]

[masked]  (New York)






From: Charlie O'Donnell [mailto:charlie.odonnell=[address removed]] On Behalf Of Charlie O'Donnell
Sent: Monday, March 18,[masked]:04 AM
To: Dean Collins
Subject: This Week in the NYC Innovation Community...and an ask - March 18th, 2013





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Just ask.

That’s what I recently learned from Amanda Palmer. Honestly, I didn’t know who Amanda Palmer was until she showed up to a panel I participated on at SXSW.

She’s a musician that raised over a million dollars from fans who supported her work via Kickstarter—and she gave one of the most fantastic TED talks I’ve ever seen on the “art of asking”.

It doesn’t seem so hard, but it is. Asking means being really vulnerable. Asking implies that you cannot do something on your own. You’re not perfect. You need others.

It’s one thing when you’re an entrepreneur, because duct taping things together to raise a little cash—the whole hacked nature of it—is kind of expected and normal.

What about when you’re a VC? Ever seen a VC pitch for capital in public? Ever hear a VC open up to the crowd and say, “We need x dollars to keep going”?

Who would back them? Who would care enough to reach into their pocket to make sure there’s another VC walking around—judging them at pitch competitions, pontificating on Twitter, sending e-mail turndowns, skiing while you’re working? (Or, you know, whatever it is we do with our time...)

Instead, we try to project a positive and public face. Lately, you’ve heard a few people talk about the dishonesty of the startup world—the falsehood we project when someone says, “How are things going?” We always answer “Great!” or “Crushing it” even when we have two week’s worth of cash in the bank, no customers, and would cut your arm off for a face saving aqui-hire. It creates the unfair expectation in other entrepreneurs that if things aren’t going well, something must be wrong with them, because everyone else seems to be crushing it. Well, they’re not, trust me.

Brooklyn Bridge Ventures has raised $5mm—half of its target. I’ve made six investments—three that have been announced in some way (Windowfarms, Floored, and Editorially). Four are in Brooklyn. Three have female founders. One sits in my desk feeding me sprouts. One you’ve encountered if we’ve scheduled a meeting by e-mail. All six are awesome.

Yet, fundraising is slow. It’s hard. It’s hard because it’s not one of those big institutional funds where you ask the Ohio State Teachers pension system for chunks of $25mm. It’s a lot of individuals, some smaller family offices—much blocking and tackling with people who don’t write checks for a living.

When I watched Amanda’s talk, I thought to myself about how my goal is to be the kind of VC where the community would want me to keep going—where I was doing something that you felt made a positive impact over and above just handing out money into a few startups and trying to make some cash. I strive to notice, as Amanda puts it, as many people as possible everyday. Give them even just a short, intense acknowledgement that they’re being paid attention to in exchange for a little bit of their time. I may or may not be able to help them further, but at minimum, I can pay attention.

This is me falling into the audience...

I cannot do this alone. Oh, I can run the fund on my own—that’s no problem. In fact, it’s fun and exciting and it’s exactly how I work best. No, I mean this fundraising thing. Other people are out there raising right now. We run into each other and ask how we’re doing—everyone’s always “wrapping up” because they’re almost done. I don’t know if they really are almost done or if they’re just secretly “crushing it” with a false smile. VCs do that better than most. There are VCs out there—unable to raise more money—in “walking dead” funds who will never write another check. You’ll never know who they are until they decide to “spend more time with family.” Doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect me.

What I do know is that I could use your help. It’s hard to ask. I hate asking for things more than anyone. I hate the idea that maybe I used to be a big fish in a small pond and now that our local pond is so big, that I might need help putting together a little fund, because there are lots of other big fish out there that are bigger than me. That’s great for NYC. It’s what I wanted when I tried to help put this thing together—sitting in the NY Tech Meetup in the back of Scott’s office at Meetup. There were 30 of us in the room in 2005. Now, the fulfillment of the dream is really humbling, because we’ve attracted the best and brightest into our ecosystem, and there are a lot of smart folks walking around.

I just want to keep going. I never “wanted to get into VC” like your finance buddies. I got into it before I really ever knew what it was. Besides one unfortunately brief stint on the startup side, it’s basically all I’ve ever done—and it’s what I got trained to do. It’s what I love to do. I think I’m pretty good at finding awesome people worth backing, and trying hard to help them. I know I work really hard at it. I know I’ve made some small impact in this community early on and I’d love to have more time to make an even bigger impact on it going forward—especially in Brooklyn where it looks like Manhattan in 2005, with a handful of people, a lot of passion, and lots left to build.

So my ask?

Maybe you don’t actually know me. Maybe you do know me but never thought of yourself as a fund investor. Just hit reply. Just let me know you’d like to see me keep doing this and you think it would be rewarding to participate. We can talk about details, amounts, and all the stuff the SEC won’t let me pitch you about here after.

Maybe you’re not in a position to, but you know who would be—some Wall Streeter, hedge funder, real estate magnate, etc. They think tech is cool but don’t have access. They’d love a sherpa to introduce them to the NYC community of innovation. Maybe they randomly put one investment into a company they liked, but no one else knows who they are. Intros are welcome.

Maybe you’re another investor—with a bigger fund or at a later stage, doing all your own directs—I’d love to work more closely with you. Would you find it worthwhile to invest in the ecosystem I’m trying to help build—let me know.

Whatever the outcome, like any startup searching for customers, I could use more leads. I’ll worry about the conversion. Who should I talk to?

This is hard to do. I changed my mind several times over the course of the past week on whether I should, on how many unsubscribes I’d get because people might be annoyed about putting the hat out. That would be the guy yelling out of the car “Get a job!” to Amanda in her talk. That’s what we fear—that we’ll ask and be shamed for even thinking that we could get anyone to help us. The key is realizing that, in fact, you can’t make anyone help—but maybe there are just enough that would want to, and that’s really all you need. You just need to be ok about asking. Thank you, Amanda, for inspiring me to ask. I know I will have a bunch of great experiences and interactions with folks by doing so, whether or not it nets the fund any cash.

You’ve allowed me, week after week, to go far beyond the license one would normally have sending out an events newsletter. Thanks, as always, for your time and attention.



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