Sorkin and Smith (two very prominent Cornellians)

This morning I read “Dealbook” like I do every morning.  Andrew Ross Sorkin at the NYT created Dealbook many years ago.  He happens to be a Cornell alum (irrelevant to this post but nice to point out), and still is one of the primary writers of Dealbook.

Terrible racist acts have stunned most of us over the last few weeks. Andrew reprinted a memo in Dealbook today that Robert Smith, founder of Vista Equity Partners, wrote to his firm’s employees over the weekend.  Robert Smith is also a Cornell alum (also irrelevant to this post but nice to point out). If you have not already read the memo, please read it. I have nothing to add – it says it all.  Thanks.

Dear Vista Family,

This has been a heartbreaking and painful week for America and a reminder that in our endless pursuit of a “more perfect union,” a great deal of work remains.

When I see the face of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, or Christian Cooper, I see myself as a young man; I see the faces of my children; and I am reminded of the many times in my life when I have been judged not by my character, but by my skin color. I am not alone. I have heard from many of you that you have been deeply moved by these events, and I did not want them to pass without sharing a few thoughts with you.

I can still vividly recall the pain I felt as a youth when I found my mother and father comforting each other as they just learned that my uncle was shot dead, by a white gas station attendant. I was quite confused by this as my uncle, who had just received his masters degree and was recently married, was quite excited about having landed a job with the State of Colorado inspecting various facilities across the state. Apparently this gas station attendant couldn’t imagine why an African American would have a state gas card and felt the appropriate action was to shoot and kill him. This was almost 50 years ago, and the pain still lingers.

In so many ways, this is a better, stronger, more inclusive country than it has ever been. In other ways, progress still feels so elusive. There is still so much hate, bigotry, anger, violence, and misunderstanding in our society that’s a lot harder to overlook after the events of this week.

It’s natural to feel helpless in light of the events we’re seeing in the news. Each of us has to choose to overcome. Each of us can embrace the words that Dr. King spoke in a sermon in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1957. He said, “We must discover the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world.”

We may not be able to mend all the broken parts of our society immediately, but we can each contribute the love and understanding in our hearts and in our souls to our families and our communities. Take the time to reach out to the communities that are grieving most, and let them know that you support them and we are one.

Let’s each of us hold the people we love a little tighter this weekend, and do our part to make of this old world a new world. We have work to do.

With love and gratitude,

Robert

A Little COVID-19 Relief

As many of you know, Entrepreneurship at Cornell hosts a big conference in NYC each fall.  The event is called Eclectic Convergence, Cornell Entrepreneurship Summit, and this fall the date is November 13, 2020, again at the TimesCenter.  We hope that the event will go ahead, but only time will tell.

I source the speakers for Eclectic Convergence well in advance.  As of today 7 of the 8 speakers are lined up:

Michelle Adelman, Accite Holdings

Emin Gun Sirer, Ava Labs

Polina Marinova, The Profile

Ryan Hudson, Honey

Katia Beauchamp, BirchBox

Steve Hindy, Brooklyn Brewery

Jeremy Cohen, NYC Photographer

I was on the phone with Jeremy today, and am already looking forward to his presentation.  He is the first professional artist that we have had as a speaker!

With all that said, I bet you are wondering why I am titling this post “A Little COVID-19 Relief”.  Well, here you go.  Check out the video clip below from Jeremy’s twitter feed:

Holy Banana Peels!!

I hope that title made you laugh.  There is not much to laugh about recently.  Companies laying off people, companies closing down either temporarily or permanently, people doing stupid things (too many examples), craziness at grocery stores, etc.  I am sure you all have your best “un”favorite example.

In these incredibly challenging times, I wanted to pass along 2 articles in case you have not seen them yet.  The first, by Steve Blank, it about the virus and startup survival.  I don’t need to make any comments on it as it really does not need any.  Have a read here.  One of the folks at Entrepreneurship at Cornell sent it to me yesterday (thanks!).

The second article is called Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance.  I am guessing that many of you have already seen this one.  Tomas Pueyo, who is a leader at Course Hero, has been quite prolific in his analysis of the virus and what/why we need to do do to address it.  A fact-based presentation.  I wrote an email yesterday to someone that one “light” from yesterday was that China had reported no new infections overnight.  If you would like to better understand why that good news happened, then take 20 minutes and read Tomas’ article. I don’t care if you think this whole thing is an overblown episode in time – read the article.  Someone on the Entrepreneurship at Cornell advisory council (former student, now VC!) sent me this one (thanks!).

Be safe!

First Round Capital is a Treasure Trove of Valuable Information

Happy New Year!  Quick post.

First Round Capital is literally a treasure trove of valuable information. Its First Round Review repository is outstanding, and should be a go to resource for any startup founder. Today First Round Review published “The 30 Best Pieces of Advice for Entrepreneurs that We Heard in 2019.”  It is a wonderful compilation of advice and tidbits with easy to understand and apply stories.  Definitely worth reading!

Enjoy.

New Investment Initiative from Launch NY

I am on the board of a non-profit called Launch NY.  It is a venture “launching” organization that couples programmatic intense mentoring with potential seed funding.  I am passing along news of a new initiative that you might find interesting. Here it is:

Launch NY is working to find more ways to engage the local investor community and connect them with our client startup companies. With nearly 130 co-investors to date in Launch NY portfolio companies who have received funding from the Launch NY Seed Fund, the most active seed fund in NYS, our companies have secured 12x the $1.9MM we have invested. Now even more investors can access exciting startup company investment opportunities from the convenience of their laptop or smartphone, as Launch NY has announced that is launching the beta version of the Investor Network.

The first one hundred accredited investors to sign up for the beta test of the Investor Network by July 15th at no cost, will have access to the inaugural slate of startup companies seeking funding this summer.

  • The Investor Network is akin to a digitally administered open angel group, allowing accredited investors to look at deals based on their preferences in sector, stage, and region.
  • Investors can then invest in individual companies on a deal by deal basis, with as little as $10,000.
  • Launch NY will handle vetting the companies, provide access to their due diligence files, assist in negotiations, and structure the special purpose vehicle (SPV) which will aggregate the participating investors. The investment will appear as one line item on the company’s capitalization table.
  • The use of an SPV will allow for accredited investors to benefit from tax incentives for businesses who are located in designated Opportunity Zones.

Launch NY is limiting the beta launch to the first 100 accredited investors, so if you are interested in joining us, please sign up at this link or reach out to Launch NY’s Investment Associate, Alex Killian (akillian@launchny.org) and they will be in touch soon with more information.