I had dinner with my good friend and Bazaarvoice co-founder, Brant Barton, on Tuesday at the new Sway in West Lake Hills (yummy) and we talked about lessons learned in angel investing. It was on my mind as I’m doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) webinar with my good friend and often investing colleague, Josh Baer, on Tuesday, Feb. 5 from 4-5pm CT (you can sign up here). During my conversation with Brant, I distilled down to seven lessons learned (in the spirit of Lucky7, of course). Brant is reading Jason Calacanis’s book on angel investing and told me that many of these are in there (maybe all of these, I haven’t read the book), so you may want to turn to that to really dig in as I’m going to do my best to keep this post short. My hope in sharing these with you is that it ignites more angel investing in Austin - it is vital to our startup ecosystem here. We are doing better on that front in Austin than ever before, but I believe we are only scratching the surface here. And I hope these lessons have an impact beyond Austin angels and startups as well.
Last Monday, I had the honor of keynoting the Texas MBA Class of 2015 Orientation. This is the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin's largest class to date - I believe around 270 students. Around 80 spouses were also present. Tina Mabley, Assistant Dean of the Full-time MBA Program, introduced me. She introduced me as the Vice Chairman and Co-founder of Bazaarvoice and also as the incoming Entrepreneur-in-Residence at McCombs, a position I'm glad to begin in September. My grandfather, James Mann Hurt, taught at U.T. Austin for his entire career and I'm proud to follow in his footsteps. I promised the students I would post my speech, complete with links, and that is what follows here:
It has been awhile since I've posted as I've had three conferences back to back, including the main TED conference in Long Beach, our own Bazaarvoice Summit in Austin, and then SXSWi. So it is perhaps ironic that I write this philosophical post about time.
Benjamin Franklin was famous for saying many things and one of them was "remember that time is money" (you can read his full quote here). In my new journey as an angel and VC investor and entrepreneurial coach, I've been having many conversations with those that have been in these fields for longer than I have. In the first half of my life, I've been singularly focused on changing the world through technology - as the entrepreneur myself versus through others. One of the more stirring conversations I had recently was with a successful investor that said, "what use is money with no time". He was frustrated in that he had a lot of money but that it had chained him to have little time and he was vigorously trying to change that.
On January 29, Marc Andreessen predicted the death of retail in favor of disruptive, pure-play etailers, such as Fab.com. A choice quote from the PandoDaily article:
“Retail chains are a fundamentally implausible economic structure if there’s a viable alternative,” he says. “You combine the fixed cost of real estate with inventory, and it puts every retailer in a highly leveraged position. Few can survive a decline of 20 to 30 percent in revenues. It just doesn’t make any sense for all this stuff to sit on shelves. There is fundamentally a better model.”
I've been studying retail ever since I can remember. My parents were retail entrepreneurs from the time I was born, as I wrote about in this Lucky7 post. I've been programming since I was seven-years old, as I wrote about in why I named this blog Lucky7 - in tribute to my mother. I leveraged these two experiences to start my own etailer in 1998 - programmed on an eCommerce platform that I created. And I've founded two large companies to help retailers - Bazaarvoice and Coremetrics. I've also served on the Board of Shop.org for three consecutive terms. So to say I've been thinking about this for awhile is an understatement.