Cornell Women Entrepreneurs

Business Insider just published results from a study on top schools for women looking to create their own companies and obtain outside funding.   Here is the article.  The ranking is for the top 10 schools only.  Cornell is #9.  The rankings are driven by PitchBook data, and you might recall that Cornell had the same ranking for women entrepreneurs raising venture capital described in my September 24th post.

I am delighted that Cornell made the top 10!  And I can tell you that from direct experience the number of women directly involved in entrepreneurship pursuits at Cornell has grown incredibly quickly over the past 3 to 5 years. Anecdotal evidence:  4 of the 5 top teams at the Cornell Eship Kickoff event this year were founded by women.  The nice thing was that our judges did not even notice this or think much about it until after it was pointed out!!   It is just normal here :)).

We have lots of room for improvement, as #9 means that there are, well 8, spots in front of us.  Let’s keep improving.  And let’s aspire to the day when it is not even noteworthy, but rather just normal and expected.

Cornell Ranks High (again!) in PitchBook

PitchBook just came out with its updated rankings measuring the number of founders that received VC funding based on the founder’s university.  I posted on the previous ranking here (in which Cornell was #7 in the undergraduate degree category).

This year Cornell ranked #6 in the undergraduate degree category, #6 by total capital raised in the undergraduate degree category, #9 for capital raised by women founders in the undergraduate degree category and #4 on the unicorn list.

Here is the report: PitchBook_Universities_Report_2015_2016_Edition.

Great result!!  Go Red!!

Analyzing Startup Job Offers

I often get questions about startup job offers.  So I figured best to write some points down and provide some resources.  Here are some key points:

  1.  Evaluating an offer for a VP and higher position is much different than evaluation an offer for a position below a VP.
  2. Titles also don’t (and should not) mean a heck of a lot.  This is my personal view and others definitely disagree.  But if you are title “crazed” in your startup job search, I think you are misguided.  Said another way, if I were interviewing you for a job at a startup and you were title crazed I would never hire you.  Job performance is job security.
  3. VP and higher positions are outright entitled to understand exactly the percentage ownership of the company their equity package represents.  Equity packages are either stock options or restricted stock.  Lower level positions are often not tied to percentage ownership.  I think ok to politely ask for this information for lower level hires, but don’t be alarmed when you don’t get it.
  4. VP and higher positions are often given change of control acceleration on their equity vesting.  Lower level position are not typically given that.  So don’t embarrass yourself by insisting on it if you are applying for a position below VP.   Might be ok to politely ask for it, but expect the answer to be no.
  5. The key question from my perspective is “Am I being treated fairly compared to others at my level inside the company”.  If others at your level have change of control acceleration, then you should as well.

So, here are some good links.  I am not guarantying that all the information in the links is fully consistent with what I wrote above, but that is ok.  I think almost all of it is……

No Cliffs, Just Big Peaks and Valleys

I have been thinking a lot about the crazy stock market swings. Will it impact our portfolio companies?  Certainly, but not exactly sure how.  Is there such thing as timing luck?  Certainly, we sold a company to a Chinese buyer on July 1st.  That would not have happened much after that!  Will startups have a tougher time raising capital?  Certainly, investors get nervous with any volatility.

But I do feel strongly that companies with sound business models going after large addressable markets with low barriers to scaling up quickly will always find investors.  You might read that prior sentence and say “duh, no kidding”.  That is fine.  Just don’t panic as you are reading it.

I just read a great post on this week’s stock market downturn (which now seems like an upturn!).  Eric Paley is one of the head guys at Founder Collective (a fellow Cornellian, Micah Rosenbloom, is also one of the head guys at FC; Micah and Eric started a very successful hardware company together in business school……and sold it very successfully too!).  Anyway, I encourage you to read Eric’s post here for a good perspective on the funding cycle peaks and valleys.

Have a great weekend.

Sales Pipeline Explained

What is a sales pipeline?  Sounds easy to understand and maybe it is. But after some recent conversations with some sales guys, I thought i should write down an explanation.

Many of you know that I am a very literal person.  I am a very direct person too – not much nuance in my communication style and not much making you guess what I mean.  Well, a sales pipeline should be the same way.  Here goes:

1.  VCs and most active startup investors love information.  The more info the founders/CEO give, the happier we are (I have written about this a few times).  It is kind of like cookies and the Cookie Monster.

2.  One of the key pieces of information is a projection model that shows a projected income statement and cash flow statement for the given year (the balance sheet for an early stage startup is less important, but also nice to have). Ideally, this would be delivered in December for following calendar year.  It is kind of like a flight plan.  Without the projection model the company is flying blind.  A detailed income statement with revenue on top and income/loss on the bottom and everything in between (COGS, gross margin, all those SGA expenses below gross margin, etc.).

3.  The sales pipeline clearly relates to the revenue projection and for this post I am going to limit it to that – if sales are projected to explode it also typically means that expenses explode too, but the pipeline is, well the pipeline.

4.  Sales pipeline = the customer orders that produce the product order backlog (if a physical product company) and then the revenue for each month of the 12 month projection.

5.  And I don’t mean customers by some vague code like customers 1, 2, 3 and 4.  I mean a literal list of customers by name, unit amount, expected PO date, expected product ship date (last time I checked you cannot have revenue without shipping the product), and expected revenue.  A bonus is to show selling price by order so that everyone can understand differences in the way customers are being treated (like volume discounts, incentives, etc.).

6.  So, if the projection says $40,800 of revenue for July, $67,000 of revenue for August, $133,400 of revenue for September, then the head of sales (be it the CEO or a separate head of sales) better have a list of projected orders by customer by month to back this up.

7.  In other words, the sales pipeline FEEDS the monthly revenue projection (the TOP line) in the projection model.

8.  Clearly, the months that are closer in time will have more firm customers and orders.  The months further out in time will have less firm customers and orders.  But without an actual sales pipeline, the revenue projection is an utter guess.  With the sales pipeline it is an educated guess.  Educated guesses are always better.

9.  The pipeline can be changed during the year and the projection model can and should be updated.  It is always nice to keep the original projection model on a separate tab to enable everyone to see the changes and see the slips or unexpected successes.

Hope that makes sense.  Have a sales pipeline!  It should form a major part of any board meeting package and result in a lot of discussion.