ANGEL: Freestyle’s Jenny Lefcourt on nailing non-consensus bets and avoiding hype | E1704 | Summary and Q&A

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March 22, 2023
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This Week in Startups
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ANGEL: Freestyle’s Jenny Lefcourt on nailing non-consensus bets and avoiding hype | E1704

TL;DR

Jenny Lefcourt, GP at freestyle Capital, discusses venture capitalists' bias towards certain business models and the importance of avoiding hype cycles in this final episode of "The Angel Series."

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Key Insights

  • 👋 Non-consensus bets often yield the best outcomes as they avoid overcrowded markets and overvaluation.
  • 🕵️‍♀️ Diversity in the tech industry extends beyond having female check writers; it also requires addressing the funding disparity for female-founded teams.
  • 👨‍💼 Early-stage companies should prioritize focusing on product-market fit and building a viable business rather than pursuing excessive funding.
  • 🚨 The success of emerging technologies hinges on their applications and value propositions, not just the technology itself.
  • 👨‍💼 Founders should prioritize sales and customer acquisition over non-business-critical activities to drive growth and success.
  • 🥺 Overcapitalization and high valuations can lead to inflated expectations and distractions, hindering a startup's ability to find product-market fit.
  • 😅 Access to hot deals and strong lead investors can significantly increase a startup's chances of success.

Transcript

we are back with the final episode of this series The Angel series that we do and we've had so many great three cycle investors and entrepreneurs on this they've imparted so much wisdom and today I'm joined by friend of the pod in front of our firm Jenny leftcourt she is from freestyle Capital we have a great discussion about Venture capitalists an... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What are the business models that venture capitalists are biased towards?

Venture capitalists are generally biased towards business models that can scale and make money. The key factor is whether the business becomes easier and more effective as it grows, such as through network effects.

Q: Why is it important to avoid overcapitalization and high valuations?

Overcapitalization and high valuations can lead to inflated expectations and distractions from finding true product-market fit. It's crucial for founders to focus on building a viable business before seeking excessive funding.

Q: How can founders navigate the hype around emerging technologies like web 3 and AI?

Founders should focus on the value proposition and real-world applications enabled by these technologies, rather than just chasing trends. Understanding how the technology can deliver a better experience or solve a problem is key.

Q: What advice does Jenny Lefcourt give to founders when it comes to raising capital?

Lefcourt emphasizes the importance of focusing on the few things that will truly make or break the business, such as signing key retail partners or acquiring customers. Founders should avoid getting caught up in busy work and prioritize activities that drive sales and product development.

Summary

In this video, Jenny Lefcourt from Freestyle Capital discusses venture capitalists, bias towards certain business models, and the challenges faced in the VC industry. She shares examples of successful investments and the importance of non-consensus bets. Lefcourt also talks about the impact of diversity in tech and the economics of seed funding. The conversation touches on the AI and web 3.0 industries and the hype surrounding them.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the mission of AllRaise?

AllRaise aims to diversify the tech industry by increasing the number of women in venture capital and supporting more diverse teams. While progress has been made in getting more women decision-makers in VC firms, there is still a long way to go in terms of funding going to female-founded teams or people of color.

Q: What types of business models are venture capitalists attracted to?

Venture capitalists are attracted to business models that have the potential to scale and generate significant revenue. While this may seem like a generic response, it is crucial to invest in businesses that become easier to grow and have network effects as they scale. This could take various forms depending on the specific business.

Q: Can you provide an example of a business that gets easier as it scales?

BetterUp, a portfolio company of Freestyle Capital, started by providing executive coaching to the enterprise. As the company grew, it attracted more customers and top coaches from various verticals. This growth allowed them to offer a better product and proposition, making it easier for them to close accounts. The larger they became, the better their product became, creating a virtuous cycle.

Q: What are some business models that typically don't work well in venture capital?

Negative unit economics and business models that rely on future monetization without a clear path to profitability generally don't work well. Many companies have failed by offering low prices as a lost leader or planning to make money later. Additionally, when multiple startups try to solve the same problem and all get funded, it often leads to a race to the bottom. Overcapitalization and crowded markets can be detrimental to startups.

Q: How does entry price play into seed funding economics?

Entry price is an essential factor in seed funding economics. Seed stage venture funds typically make multiple investments, and not all of them will achieve significant returns. To have a successful fund, at least one investment needs to have a substantial exit, which requires a higher return multiple. Given the power law distribution of returns in venture capital, anticipating a few exceptional investments is crucial.

Q: Is it valid to criticize venture capitalists for going after only the most extreme returns?

While some criticism may exist, the reality of venture capital is that high returns are necessary to make up for the majority of investments that may not yield significant returns. Venture capitalists support all founders equally and try to help them succeed. However, the math and dynamics of the industry often lead to a small number of investments driving the majority of returns. It's important to swing for the fences due to the uncertainty of which investments will be successful.

Q: Is the current AI hype similar to the web 3.0 hype?

The AI hype and the web 3.0 hype share similarities in terms of capturing attention and interest from founders. Whenever a new technology changes experiences or offers new possibilities, it can be both real and attract significant interest. While there was a lot of unfounded hype during the dot-com era, there were also successful businesses built. The key is to differentiate between genuine opportunities and simply putting a buzzword at the end of a concept.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Jenny Lefcourt shares her insights on venture capitalists' bias towards business models that can scale and make money, highlighting the importance of network effects and strong growth potential.

  • She discusses the challenges faced by initiatives to diversify the tech industry, particularly in terms of increasing the number of female check writers and funding for female-founded teams.

  • Lefcourt emphasizes the need for founders to focus on non-consensus bets, as these often result in successful outcomes and avoid the pitfalls of overcapitalization.

  • The conversation touches on the emergence of web 3 and AI hype, cautioning against chasing technology for its own sake and emphasizing the importance of focusing on meaningful applications and value propositions.

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