A few quick thoughts before I head off to the TechHub seed funding meetup this evening. Note that the following list is neither definitive, ironic, sarcastic, nor even grumpy: it’s just a whole bunch of contemporary startup things I genuinely don’t get, however much in vogue they may be.
(1) Whatever Sweary Dave McClure says, 500startups seems exactly like mentored spray-and-pray to me. Given that Dave’s a self-professed metric fan, talking up the merits of a proposed 85% fail rate before barely any investees have got round to failing seems somewhat, errrm, anti-metric. Perhaps I’m missing Something Really Important here, and bless the Sainted Dave for trying, but… nope, I don’t get it.
(2) Eric Ries’ “Lean Startup” movement. Look, I do truly understand why customer development and iterative engagement are hugely important – if not indeed utterly central – to effective product development. However, as a way of presenting startups to the investment community, I think it is an abject failure, a weighty conceptual millstone placed around entrepreneurs’ necks at the precise moment they’re starting to swim against the external economic tide. Maybe in ten years’ time (when a handful of self-funded lean startups have somehow managed to go big) angels will see it as some kind of “contrarian bandwagon” to jump on and it’ll make sense: but not now, not even slightly.
(3) The UK Government’s bipolar attitude to technology. On the one hand, you have Vince Cable who seems to want to singlehandedly bootstrap a manufacturing technology revolution in the UK (oh, as long as it’s nowhere near the South-East: ta for that, Mr C) – while on the other hand, you have most of the rest of the government for whom “technology” now seems operationally synonymous with “web technology” *sigh*. Either way, I can’t honestly say this makes any real sense to me.
(4) Old Street / Shoreditch / Tech Cities / Silicon Back Alley. Why is anyone seriously suggesting that the UK needs more office space for startups? The UK is full of empty offices – that’s what happens when an entire generation of businesses gets suddenly squeezed by the banks and is forced to downsize just to retain sufficient day-to-day liquidity. What’s so wrong with home offices, shared offices, garages, etc?
(5) Super-angels. To my ears, this phrase always has echoes of Terry Jones saying “He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy“: for most so-called super-angels are neither “super” nor even “angels”, but just
naughty boys micro-VCs. Can a super-angel represent a group of other angels and still manage to make a £20K investment? Or even a £50K investment? I suspect probably not.
(6) Early stage VCs. Come on – how’s that going to work, then? To make a minority investment of £2m+, an early stage VC would need to find a whole set of early stage startups that it could sensibly value at £4m-£5m. But outside of pharma and energy, startups just don’t work at that scale any more. I don’t get it.