"How to Grow a VC Ecosystem" – Reaction to Forbes Article

Recently, Victor Hwang, wrote a guess post on Forbes about How to Growth a Venture Capital Ecosystem. The article is a good first essay on the topic and I am awaiting his updated post featuring “Rules 2 through 5”. The post highlighted a few issues and trends that are at the heart of BootstrapLabs’ differentiated model when it comes to discovering innovation and early stage venture model.

At BootstrapLabs, we spent a lot of time figuring out some of the issues being raised here and like good entrepreneurs do – and we hope like he pioneers mentioned in the article did back then – we designed a new way to source (potentially disruptive) innovation born outside of Silicon Valley but quickly nurture them in both, Silicon Valley and their country (or state) of origin, building from the strength of those ecosystems, and leveraging what each has best to offer.

We did this with @Prezi and it seems to have worked out for them as well as the ecosystem they came from (Budapest), creating 100+ jobs “back home” and bringing Silicon Valley best practices on how to running and growing a tech startups. Prezi has not yet generated significant liquidity for its founders and shareholders but it is already inspiring Angels and VCs back home to catch the next Prezi..too often people (and governments) think that you can jumpstart an ecosystem by reducing the risk to start a company by providing grants, then have angels come out of the woodwork after giving the wealthy some tax incentives, and double on the amount of companies getting funded by doubling or tripling the amount of money injected in VC funds…well all of this works for a while, new companies are created, new angels invest in startups and VC fund more companies, which in turn hire more employees…but in the end (say 5-7years), all this investment risk to fall flat if exits are not there to reward investors, angels and entrepreneurs…and you can’t force exits.

Where you are born as an individual no longer defines where you live. Why should it be any different for startups or innovation!

They are indeed arbitrage opportunities but the kinds that create real value and augment the pie.

I believe that over time, every ecosystem can be criticized for its herd mentality or put another way “you are a product of your environment” or “you can’t think of it unless you feel the pain”. Silicon Valley might not be exempt as some article have suggested in recent past…but the velocity , mentality and depth of the ecosystem will likely keep it ahead of any others for decades to come. If you can’t beat it, join it, right?

This is where a global and connected view of the world’s hot bed for startups & innovation, combined with local intelligence on the ground can reveal an extremely powerful deal flow and exit engine.

I was recently invited to inaugurate the new Global Startup Support Center, Born2Gobal, in Seoul and gave a speech on Globalization. Enjoy 🙂

Looking forward to your comments and feedback.

2nd Annual RocketSpace Open Innovation Summit

We have 10 Guest passes @ 75% ticket discount.  An awesome deal for under $150!

2nd Annual RocketSpace Open Innovation Summit 

You are invited to join an exclusive gathering of futurists, thought leaders, and change makers in corporate innovation for a two day interactive summit.

This event is designed for innovation practioners, investment managers, and platform evangelists tasked with charting the future of their industry and driving technology diffusion through their innovation programs. 


Featured Participants

Day 1: Charting the Future

1:00 – 1:30 pm Coffee & Registration

1:30 – 2:00 pm Day-1 Welcome Address

 Duncan Logan
 founder/ CEO

2:00 – 3:00 pm Charting the Future: accessing cross-industry emerging technology opportunities 

 Winston Wang
 Global Director of Strategic Innovations
Anheuser Busch

 Bernhard Gold 
Investment Director
 T-Venture of America 

 Glenn Morgan
Head of Service Transformation
British Airways

 Mike Chen
Program Dir, Corporate Innovation 

3:00 – 4:00 pm Keynote by Peter Diamandis, founder of X-Prize & Singularity University

Peter Diamandis is the founder and chair of the X Prize Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is simply “to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.” By offering a big cash prize for a specific accomplishment, the X Prize stimulates competition and excitement around some of the planet’s most important goals. Diamandis is also co-founder and chairman of Singularity University which runs Exponential Technologies Executive and Graduate Student Programs.
Diamandis’ background is in space exploration — before the X Prize, he ran a company that studied low-cost launching technologies and Zero-G which offers the public the chance to train like an astronaut and experience weightlessness. But though the X Prize’s first $10 million went to a space-themed challenge, Diamandis’ goal now is to extend the prize into health care, social policy, education and many other fields that could use a dose of competitive innovation.

4:00 – 7:00 pm Networking Reception mixer with pre-invited Startup Founders


Day 2: Innovation Management

1:00 – 1:30 pm Day-2 Welcome Address

 Eryc Branham

1:30 – 3:30 pm Innovation workshop by Bill O’Connor (Autodesk), founder of Innovation Genome

Bill O’Connor works on the Corporate Strategy + Engagement team at Autodesk, where he co-manages the company’s thought leadership platform, edits the Autodesk POV journal, works on the Autodesk vision team, and serves as the primary speechwriter for Autodesk’s CEO and CTO. His role at the company is to take the big ideas that are important to Autodesk and make them more valuable inside and outside the company. This involves tracking and analyzing trends in design, technology, business, and society, and applying those trends to Autodesk and its customers. Bill also runs The Innovation Genome Project, where he and his team are in the process of researching the top 1,000 innovations in world history, looking for practical patterns and insights that people can apply to their day-to-day work. Bill has written and presented widely on all things Internet, including a piece called “Create or Be Created: The Internet Renaissance” on the peer-reviewed journal First Monday.Org, as well as appearances on CNN and at Yale University. He currently serves on the advisory boards of two Bay Area technology startups.

3:30 – 4:15 pm Disruption from Within: Keys to Successful Innovation Programs

 Diana Stepner 
 Head of Future Technologies

 Brendon Kim 
Managing Director 
Open Innovation Fund
 Regan Long 
Business Innovation Manager 


 Claire Lee
Microsoft Ventures 

  Mike Chen
  Program Dir, Corporate Innovation     


4:15 – 5:15 pm Startup Showcase



                      Inentive Challenge Foundation




6:00 – 9:00 pm Innovation executive dinner @ Credo Restaurant

* conference attendees are encouraged to attend TechCrunch Disrupt or enjoy complimentary workstation access at RocketSpace Open Innovation Campus in the mornings.


Ben Levy to Moderate Top Accelerator Players @ BeGlobal – September 13, 2013

Went it comes to globalization, startups trends and ecosystem development,  BootstrapLabs has a unique vantage point and its no wonder that Ben Levy, one of our Partners, has been asked to moderate a panel on Thinking Global with some of the most influential Accelerators in Silicon Valley including Christine Tsai @500Startups, Kevin Hale @Ycombinator and Adam Draper @BoostVC.

beGLOBAL is powered by beSUCCESS, Korea most successful tech blogging platform and founding father of beLAUNCH, the first Korean Tech conference for Startups with global ambitions (see video here).

Our firm is extremely bullish about the Korean’s startup ecosystem over the next decade and has been spending a fair amount of time there over the past few months, meeting ecosystem players, connecting with investors, mentoring entrepreneurs and understanding the strength and weaknesses of the ecosystem. Koreans invented Facebook before Facebook and made it profitable but a lack of global thinking allowed Facebook to take the world over, including its home market. Koreans are learning their lessons, fast and President Park is committed to start a “Creative Economy” renaissance in her country, of which tech startups play a major role.

If you want to now what else can come out of Korea, beside PSY “Gangnam Style” K-POP song, and take the world by storm, come attend this conference on Friday September 13, 2013 at the Four Seasons.

The line up of speaker is impressive, and will include (full line-up here):

  • 3 Generations of the Draper Family: Bill Draper, Tim Draper, & Adam Draper
  • Global Accelerators: Kevin Hale (Y Combinator) & Christine Tsai (500 Startups)
  • VCs: David Lee (SV Angel), Jeff CLavier (SoftTech VC), Aydin Senkut (Felicis VC), Jay Eum (Translink Capital), and many more…
  • Entrepreneurs: Ben Huh & Emily Huh (Cheezburger), Suk Park (DramaFever), Jorn Lyseggen (MeltWater), and more…
  • Corporate: Marc Shedroff (Samsung Innovation Center), Jeanie Han (NHN/Line), and more

Come to learn about latest globalization trends, discover some cool startups from Korea, meet movers and shakers in the space…. Or just come for a nice lunch and OPEN BAR at the Four Seasons in Palo Alto on a Friday to unwind from DisruptSF craziness 🙂

BootstrapLabs friends can register here and claim $50 off by using the discount code: bootstrap-bg

Looking forward to seeing you there.

Only days left to comment on the new Sec regulations for Startup fundraising

Help the SEC understand why new fundraising rules will hurt startups

New rules are about to come into effect for raising funds for startups, that might have a huge impact on your startup’s and your portfolio companies ability to raise funding.


Starting Sep 23, startups will be able to publicly raise money from accredited investors


The SEC is proposing difficult filing requirements, which many startups will fumble, resulting in a one year ban from fundraising

  • Startups must notify the SEC 15 days before they publicly discuss raising money
  • Startups must file documents with the SEC every time they update their offering materials
  • Startups must include legal boilerplate every time they talk about their financing publicly

Our friends at AngelList have summarized this and their thoughts here, also make sure you;

Please act now and share your comments with the SEC here!

Welcoming back Ben Levy @ BootstrapLabs, Post Asian#214 Crash Landing at SFO

ben_sumi_reunitedAs some of you might know, Ben Levy, a Partner at BootstrapLabs was on flight Asiana #214 that crashed landed at San Francisco Airport on July 6th, 2013 around 11:27am. NBC Bay Area channel anchor Raj Mathai broke the news and Ben was the first survivor on air from his hospital bed that day.

We now understand that Ben, that was seated in an emergency exit row, played a key role in helping survivors getting out of the plane as quickly as possible and went on to assist other passengers stuck in the back of the plane where he was seated.

For those of you who are lucky enough to know Ben personally, you will not be surprised by his actions. He is just that kind of guy… Positive, can do attitude and always ready to help others. Beloved father of 2 young boys and husband to a wonderful wife, Sumi, we are extremely thankful to have Ben back among us and look forward to continuing building our dream together.

Like a lot of the passengers on the Asiana plane that day, we feel extremely lucky to have Ben on our side, EVERY DAY of the week.

Please join us in officially welcoming Ben (@BenLevy74) back at BootstrapLabs!


NextGen Asian Accelerators with Benjamin Levy at beLaunch 2013

Panel with Benjamin Levy on the next generation of Asian Accelerators at beLAUNCH. Which is Korea’s biggest startup and technology conference reaching the global technology communities. beLAUNCH is the flagship event of South Korean startup and technology platform.

Amongst Hedgehogs and Foxes

Inspired by Andrew Chen’s blog post yesterday and as Isaiah Berlin wrote in The Hedgehog and the Fox, in a world where a fox means that you know many little things, and a Hedgehog knows one big thing.

Being a Startup Entrepreneur you need to be a Hedgehog with a Fox’s tail, as you need to know the one thing you are trying to do really well (or rather get to know really well as you build-measure-learn), and you also must know many small things.

I think the twist to this is that if you are part of the support eco-system of Investors and Startup advisors that help the startup founders do what they do best, the best thing you can be is the Hedgehog that turned into a Fox. You need to know many small things, some rationally as well as emotionally (from the experience of having been immersed in them).

The game of investing in startups is a game of extreme uncertainty, and driven by serendipity, chance and luck. One of my favorite quotes are from the Swedish skier Gunde Svan, that told a reporter (on the topic of luck): “Yes, I do have a lot of luck, but oddly enough the harder I work and keep practicing the more luck I have”. And of course hard work really does matter.

I don’t believe any startup investors are able to predict the future, but as startup investor, what you are really looking for is pattern recognition, that can guide and help you to increase likelihood of success (and thus reduce risk) as you make your investment decisions and work to nurture your portfolio companies.

A great startup investor is also running their Build-Measure-Learn iterations to figure out what will work and what will not work, or rather what patterns will increase likelihood of success. These patterns evolve over time just as for a startup, so this is a constant process, and the trick is to gather and look at the right data points. The definitions of what will work and what will not work is neither an absolute it always relates to the investor (or VC firm itself), as each investor is in a unique position (or disposition) to help an investment become successful.

So how do we at BootstrapLabs approach this?

  • We are humble for what we don’t know, might never know or what we need to learn.
  • We have established a large number of “soft” patterns, that relate to people, founders, team etc.
  • We are building software tools to capture and track Startup Metrics in our portfolio in real-time (Scale Metrics).
  • We are building software tools that allows us to follow the landscape of investors, advisors, startups and competitors in real-time (BootstrapRadar).
  • We try to help our Entrepreneurs in any way we can to Execute better and faster.
  • We build-measure-learn.
  • We are Hedgehogs transformed into Foxes!


Accelerators: Death or Rebirth Opportunity of True Mentorship?


The first thing that comes to mind when referring to a Mentor is someone that has the experience and wisdom of having tried – and sometimes failed – before you and can help you, not in giving you the solution but in helping you figure it out.

Today, every worthy accelerator is boasting a very long list of mentors on their website ranging from famous local or international figures, successful startup founders, venture capitalists, senior executives at large corporations, consulting firms, lawyers, teachers, etc.

I can only applaude all of them for taking the time out of their busy lives to share their wisdom with startup founders and the community at large using a “paying it forward” mentality. Yet, I can not help but wonder what kind of “Mentorship” one can really deliver when hardly spending any time with the startups in question.

I too have taken part in many of these mentoring sessions and tried my best to give valuable or insightful advice but again, what effect did those have on the startups or founders that received them, did they happen to help or confuse them…not sure…one thing is certain though, it was likely too brief to be really valuable and have a long lasting positive impact.

It goes without saying that the quality of mentors varies greatly and some, while well known, might not have the “DNA” to provide you with the advice that is right for you or your company at that specific moment. Maybe it is because I studied finance and was a FINRA certified Investment Banker at some point in my life but it is a well known fact that any financial advisor is forbidden from providing specific investment advices, unless he has gotten to “know his customer” first. This means doing its due diligence, gaining as much information as possible about the person, its current assets, family situation, health, risk tolerance profile, upcoming life milestones, etc.

The equity founders own is likely their most valuable assets (or they sure hope it will become) and should therefore be managed with great care.  I am of course not advocating that all startup mentors get some sort of accreditation from a third party authority of some sort. But I am advocating that true mentors should spend time with their startups and founders and get to know them intimately. Only then would they be in the best position to, over time (and that means more than an hour or two over a 3 months period), provide valuable insight and advice that are tailored to the needs of that specific startup and/or founder.

In the days of Telemachus and until recently, it was the norm that a mentor would be assigned to an apprentice for the better part of his youth and even sometime long after, forming a strong lasting bound. between the two parties. As a Partner @bootstrapLabs I certainly appreciate, and take full advantage of the fact, that things are moving a lot faster these days. Be it in life in general or the pace at which one can launch a startup, build an MVP,  test distribution channels and acquire customers but I refuse to believe that true mentorship, which often creates life long benefits for the apprentice and mentor, can be imparted in a single “shot” or even over the course of a traditional accelerator program.

According to Wikipedia: “Mentorship is a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. However, true mentoring is more than just answering occasional questions or providing ad hoc help. It is about an ongoing relationship of learning, dialog, and challenge.”

On the positive side, the creation of accelerator programs around the world has provided a standard framework to empower thousands of people to become startup mentors and share knowledge, experience, idea. This in itself could very well carry the seed of a true Mentorship renaissance. But as I pointed in the title of this blog post, founders should be able to read between the lines and take mentors access of accelerator programs for what it is, access; an opportunity to start building a mentor/apprentice relationship with someone they would not have met otherwise.

The best (and sometime serial) mentors are always overwhelmed with request from apprentices and getting their attention will always be a challenge. Yet I cannot help thinking that this is just a good natural filter and only the most percistent, perseverant founders will success in securing a true mentorship!

If you are one of those founders that went through an accelerator program or a serial mentor (you know who you are), I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic so feel free to drop a line or two in the comment section below. Thank you!


New Release: LIVEvisor on your hard drive

Fresh from Witsbits:


LIVEvisor now installs on your Hard Drive

With the latest release of Witsbits the LIVEvisor actually installs on your hard drive when you choose which local drive to store your VMs on.

The benefit is that you can reboot your host servers remotely without ever re-inserting the LIVEvisor boot CD/USB-key. So, from now on, use the boot CD/USB-key once to get your bare metal servers hooked up to the Witsbits web service, and that’s it – you can then manage it completely from the web without thinking about any host operating system.

Talk about Witsbits today in SF

I will be talking about Witsbits at House of Genius San Francisco today at 6pm PST. The event is hosted by Bear Data Solutions, at 128 Spear St in San Francisco. Send me an email if you’re in the neighborhood.


Read more…

Win an Awesome 500px Account!

Fresh from Zerply:


To celebrate the integration of 500px on Zerply, the fine folks at 500px are giving away 5 Awesome accounts to some lucky Zerply users.

To be in with a chance to win, simply add the 500px integration to your Zerply portfolio and we will select our five favorite 500px photosets to win a years subscription.

To see the 500px integration in action check out our integration page for more info, including how to connect your account. Winners will be featured on our blog and announced on twitter February 21st.

(Photo courtesy of Michael Woloszynowicz: http://zerply.com/vibrantshot)


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Rediscovering my Inner Geek

Fresh from the Prezi blog:

Pierre Ingmansson is working as a developer at PreziI used to live in Gothenburg, Sweden. I spent my days working as a software consultant, writing code and tests for customers on big projects spanning several years. The work I did was sometimes challenging and interesting, but mostly I just wrote code to fulfill the rules of a use-case in some document. I made a good living and got better and better at attending several-hour-meetings and writing extensive documentation that would never be read. However, deep down I felt something was wrong.
Read more…

New Host Management Features

Fresh from Witsbits:

In this post I’ll focus on the new host operation and host management features we’ve released over the last month. Hope you like it!

1.  Custom Host Scripts – Write scripts to tune your hosts

Let’s say you have a hardware RAID controller and want to install it’s accompanying monitoring and alerts tool (i.e. the type of software that sends a text message to your phone when there’s something fishy with your drives). In this case Custom Host Scripts enables you to automate the deployment and configuration of that software as your blank servers start up.

All scripts are stored centrally in your Witsbits account, simplifying orchestration and maintenance of your scripts and making it easy to overview which scripts are assigned to what hosts.

We’re putting together a catalog of scripts for common use cases. These scripts are available in your account and you can either use them as is or as a start point for your own custom scripts.


We write scripts for you: If you have a common use case where you think scripting makes sense, please contact us and we’d be happy to help you write the script and publish it in the public catalog (and you’ll of course get a personalized version if that’s needed).

Find the host scripts by selecting a host server

2.  Host Storage Management

We’re doing a whole series of upgrades to Witsbits’ storage management and first out we’ve enabled freedom to choose between any of the local hard drives on the host to store your VMs on.

We’ve got more storage improvements cooking and we plan to push them out in a pretty quick phase. So if you have any thoughts on how you want to manage storage for your hosts (or guests for that matter), please get in touch quickly. We always develop new features in close contact with users with real use cases – so your feedback will, in a very real way, impact on the product.

Select which hard drive to use for storing virtual machines

3.  SSH Access to Hosts

We have extended the Host Access functionality to enable access via SSH (previously you had to walk over to the terminal to log in – no more, no more).

Enabling SSH for host access

And don’t forget:
You sign up for Witsbits here!

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Prezi Power Week part 2. – The Charity Renovation

Fresh from the Prezi blog:

Every year as a Christmas tradition, we finish the winter Prezi Power Week with a special charity renovation. Since 2008, we have tried to make as many people’s winters better as we can. We also aim to give them a fresher, warmer start to the new year. Of course it’s more complex than that, providing help is not that easy, especially when you try to make a long term impact on a certain community.

This year we decided to go to Bag, which is a village of about 4500 inhabitants located just 43 km from Budapest. It has a settlement of about 500 Roma people that live definitively segregated from the rest of the village.
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Launching 2013 with the Prezi Power Week

Fresh from the Prezi blog:

At Prezi we like clean design, the calming white of a sheet of paper, the freedom of an infinite canvas. We also like listening, getting feedback, and exploring the stories of Prezi users or our own team members. How do these two – the clean canvas and having our pocket full of take-aways – fit together? Our not-so-secret weapon is to combine a few days of beautiful presentations and impactful discussions into something we call “Prezi Power Week!”

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Bidding Farewell to the Zebra

Fresh from the Prezi blog:

“. . . slicker, cleaner, and easier to use . . .”
As with any company, identity is all important at Prezi. However as something grows, its identity changes. Prezi has been changing ever since it started. Since 2010, we have increased dramatically in size, opened an office on the other side of the world, and completed a design overhaul, to name just a few of the points that can be plotted on the Prezi timeline. The company is growing, to be more exact, it’s growing up. The last working week of 2012 saw a development that is a real milestone in the maturing of our product, it also meant letting go of something that had been a big part of our identity. Many of you will doubtless already know what I’m blogging about, for it is with a lot of pride, and just a hint of sadness, that I announce the departure of the Transformation Zebra. The Zebra hasn’t totally disappeared. It’s still the essence of our logo, the icon on our desktops, and it still appears every time a prezi loads, but its days as a part of our user interface are over. As you might think, there are quite a few people sad to see it go: 

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