Joining CoVenture

19th February, 2015 No Comments Blog

Today I am excited to announce that I have joined CoVenture as a Managing Partner.  CoVenture is an early-stage venture capital firm with a twist:  we develop software in exchange for equity.  We also invest small amounts of capital, around $25,000, in selected portfolio companies.  At the same time, CoVenture today announces the closing of our third fund, a $3 million vehicle that will enable us to add 20-25 companies to the CoVenture family (TC article here).  I am joining CoVenture because I have experienced the significant, pervasive problems we solve for start-ups, because I am excited about our thesis, and because I think we have assembled a great team.

I have been a venture capitalist for a decade, and worked in startups before that.  Starting a company is extremely difficult.  In my experience, the hardest part for technology startups is not product development or selling or even fundraising, though all those activities are full of challenges.  The hardest task for a new startup is hiring good technology talent.  Too often, founders – even some of the best, and even those with technical capability – spend too much time, money, and equity hiring developers and designers, and then getting them to work as a unit, before they can build and launch an initial product.  Often, some of those team members are hired because they can be brought in quickly, not because they are the best fit for the company and role.

CoVenture works with founders to develop that first product, enabling launch and initial market feedback.  We also seek to help each company staff its own in-house technology team; we are not a permanent outsourcing function, but a means for assessing customer interest in a solution.  We can provide full-stack design and development capability when needed, or augment the technical skills that a team already has.  Because we are paid in equity for these efforts, our incentives align completely with those of the founders:  we want to demonstrate initial customer demand and support the assembly of the right in-house team to carry that product forward.  We also help with company strategy formulation and fundraising, and aim to give founders who have not developed a product before an understanding of the basics of product development.

Our thesis is simple.  We invest early in companies led by domain experts solving important, significant problems.  When we say early, we mean it; we often invest alongside or even before friends and family, though can also get involved when a company raises seed capital.  Domain experts know a market and the problems experienced by its participants first-hand; we have worked with former teachers on education businesses, former attorneys disrupting the legal sector, and leaders in agriculture solving problems in our food supply chain.  Important, significant problems are those that provide sufficient potential revenue to enable a venture-scale business and that we’re proud to tell our friends and family we helped to address.

The CoVenture team comprises four partners and 55 designers and developers across offices in New York City and Lahore, Pakistan.  My partners include Mike Beller, our product development lead; Jamil Goheer, who oversees the technology team; and Ali Hamed, who keeps all the trains running on time and in the right direction.  Our design and development capability encompasses most current web and mobile platforms, frameworks and languages.  My role is to select founders to join our portfolio, help them develop their product and go-to-market strategies, and support their fundraising efforts.

CoVenture has worked with 15 companies across our first two funds.  More on these later.  Also, expect blog posts from me on related topics in the coming weeks, including one on staffing an experiment (selling before hiring).

For now, I would love to hear from you if you are an entrepreneur at the beginning of your journey, focused on a significant, meaningful problem you know from personal experience.  I look forward to working with you.

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