Skillshare’s geographic footprint has expanded dramatically during the period of our involvement. The company has grown revenues close to 10x while being highly capital efficient, and now has 8 million users in almost every country in the world. 50% of new users are outside the United States — but what I find even more interesting is that 60% of all *teachers*are outside the US. What is bringing these teachers to the Skillshare platform?
I was admitted to Penn for computer science, and while I got two undergraduate degrees, computer science remained my first love all along. My favorite CS course of all was CSE 121, the second semester of freshman year, which was an introduction to functional programming via the LISP language. Why was it my favorite? It was elegant, mathematical, and introduced me to the delights of recursion. To me this was the essence of computer science.
In May 2016, Amasia led the Series B in Skillshare, an online learning platform with a unique model: it was (and is) a truly open marketplace, allowing anyone to teach and anyone to learn. We doubled down in the Series C earlier in 2018.
The VC business, for a fund manager, is an orgy of rejection. During the course of a year, we will touch 1,000 companies at Amasia; we'll invest in three (maybe four, sometimes two). What this means is that on 997 occasions, we're saying no.
It's spring, which means the thoughts of VCs turn lightly to thoughts of demo days. Many accelerators have their demo days in March. If you haven't been to one, these are celebrations of entrepreneurship; 21st century business theater. Meeting many, many companies and founders in a concentrated period produces the following reflection.
I spoke earlier this week with a young founder, a couple of years out of college, and the conversation has moved me to rant. Not a rant about inexperience, though. Inexperience has its advantages, and experience has its disadvantages. This is a rant about taking on life risk.
The last decade has seen an explosion, worldwide, of organized entrepreneurship. Angels, seed funds, mentors, coaches, accelerators and incubators have proliferated (as have VC firms). And a (good) blog post can be found on just about every minute aspect of building a technology business.
Tim O'Reilly recently wrote a great essay on the virtues of not raising external capital. It led me to reflect on one aspect of having outside investors that can feel like a gigantic chore -- reporting. This is irrelevant if, like Tim (or Craig Newmark), you haven't raised external capital. But if you have, these five guidelines might be worth considering:
Over the years I've had hundreds of conversations with CEOs about "the next round". This usually takes the form of a question: "What metrics do I need to hit to raise the next round?" In itself the question is rational; what is troublesome is when the question is asked right after a round has been raised, and when business decisions are made based on a theoretical future raise.Here are five concrete reasons to spend little time thinking about the next round in the context of building your business.
I've been reflecting recently on how the VC-founder relationship evolves with time. As I see it, a VC's job falls into three buckets: 1. Cheerleading; 2. Helping to solve problems ("adding value"); and 3. Holding management accountable. The mix between these changes as companies grow. At the seed stage it's mostly buckets 1 and 2; at the Series A stage it's more of bucket 2, some bucket 3, and a fair dose of bucket 1; and at the Series B stage and beyond, it mostly bucket 2 and 3 with a bit of bucket 1.
In the fall of 1995 I cold called Jeff Bezos. I was an associate at General Atlantic, a growth-stage investor in software companies. I was the first VC to call him; he took the call and we got along well immediately, in part because I’d found my way to him after purchasing this weird and compelling book on the Amazon web site.
The appointment of Satya Nadella as CEO of Microsoft has been greeted with joy within the Indian American community and in his native country. I find Nadella's story, however, not especially illustrative of the "success" of Indians in America; there are plenty of prior examples, and there will be others in the future, as there have been for immigrant communities from the Jews to the Irish. That part of the story is a non-story.
A better illustration of the assimilation of Indian Americans may be their pro rata participation in major large-scale white collar crimes, as so brilliantly outlined by my Penn classmate, Anita Raghavan. Thereby showing that Indian Americans are just as good or bad as the rest of America -- what could be more illustrative of assimilation than that?
I sat down for a chat with Dinesh Raju, the co-founder and CEO of Anafore, the company behind ReferralCandy, an industry-leading referral marketing SaaS product.
The company is headquartered in Singapore, and from day one of the launch of the product, in 2010, has had to look beyond its home market. In December more than 90% of the company’s revenues were generated outside Asia. Dinesh had insightful things to say about getting global, entrepreneurship, and whiskey.
I am an investor in the company. Here's a "five questions" version of our discussion.
I invest in cross-border companies that operate between the United States and Asia. Often enough the company is incorporated in Asia rather than in the U.S., and so I run into variations of the highly contagious Ebola virus, sorry, convertible note in many countries -- the U.S., of course, but also in India, Singapore and the Philippines.