Koa Lab’s Support for NEVCA’s Anti-Discrimination & Sexual Harassment Statement

Discrimination and sexual harassment are intolerable in any environment, and they are kryptonite for the diversity that unleashes the innovations that empower startups to change the world.  I was appalled by the allegations in The Information about the repeated episodes of sexual harassment by a male venture capitalist toward female entrepreneurs, and I was encouraged by Reid Hoffman’s quick reaction. Having funded many women-led companies at Koa, I know how uniquely difficult it can be for women entrepreneurs in tech.  Being an entrepreneur is difficult enough, and being a female entrepreneur is harder still–way harder than it should be.  We need to do everything possible to make sure our ecosystem in Cambridge/Boston reinforces the values that enable women entrepreneurs to be wildly successful.

I’m proud to announce my, Tamr’s, and Koa’s unequivocal support for the New England Venture Capital Association’s Statement on Discrimination and Sexual Harassment.  Diversity is a core value at Koa, and we’re working hard to practice what we preach.  I’ve written recently about the importance of diversity here.

I strongly encourage everyone in the New England start-up ecosystem (and beyond) to read NEVCA’s statement, to support their efforts, and to do everything in their power to make their companies inclusive and supportive of diversity on all dimensions.  Let’s be the change we want to see in the world.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Best SaaS tools for Startups Revisted

Fantastic post here from Ariel Diaz @ Blissfully.  I did similar post here a few years ago.  Figured I’d do a quick update on the tools that I like/use at the moment – amazing how quickly the landscape changes.

My updated recommendations:

  • Basic Productivity : Google Apps
  • Accounting : Quickbooks Online
  • Benefits/Payroll/HR  : Namely (previous suggestion was Gusto – changed for a number of reasons – but Namely is the best imho – and can do all benefits/payroll/HR in one system)
  • Expenses : Expensify
  • Recruiting : Lever
  • Equity Management/409A: eShares – I’ve blogged about this before here and Fred Wilson also posted about eShares here
  • AR/AP Automation : Bill.com (thanks to Dan Meyer for reminder)
  • CRM : SFDC (I’m tempted by Hubspot CRM and  might change)
  • Source code management : Github
  • Issue management : Jira
  • Product management : Aha.io
  • Design : Sketch + InVision
  • Hosting : GCP – I know a bunch of people will
  • Identity/IAM : JumpCloud or Okta – tradeoffs abound – think of JumpCloud as basic LDAP service vs. Okta as broader IAM solution.

Every small company has it’s own needs but it’s amazing how easy and quickly you can have the basics set up for very reasonable cost.  My biggest request to the SaaS vendors is always the same – PLEASE instrument Google OAuth to simplify login (thank you Expensify and Lever).

It’s also amazing how many big companies – if they moved to systems like the above could RADICALLY reduce their IT costs/spend and increase their scale.

I’m  encouraging folks on my team (biz folks anyway) to buy and use Chromebooks – I have been using a Pixel for 4+ years and it’s great (saw Jeff Dean running a Pixel at a meeting once – good enough for Jeff – good enough for me 🙂  Dual boot Linux instructions here.

@Tamr we have a BYO device policy (+2 year refresh) that works well – but increasingly I’m seeing that biz people @ startups are starting to give up their beloved Macs because if you use all of the above tools – really just need a browser.  ChromeOS is so much easier to maintain (my friend Christopher Ahlberg is giving me the eyeroll) and ChromeOS is  so much more secure OOTB.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tamr & GE

I’m truly thrilled by the work that we’ve been doing @ Tamr with GE. Summary of the latest and greatest @ Tamr blog here. The winds of change are blowing strong in enterprise data and analytics space. I’m very excited about the potential value to be unlocked as large companies figure out how to manage their data as an asset using DataOps instead of merely treating their data as exhaust.

Posted in Analytics, Big Data, Enterprise Software, Entrepreneurship, Founders, Health Care, Information Technology, Innovation, Start-Ups, Uncategorized, Venture Funding | Leave a comment

Conjur acquired by Cyber-Ark

I am thrilled to congratulate the entire team @ Conjur on their successful acquisition by Cyber-Ark. Formal announcement of the deal is here.

As you know – I’m all about Founders – and I’m thrilled to congratulate Elizabeth Lawler (Co-Founder & CEO) & Kevin Gilpin (Co-Founder & CTO). Kevin and Elizabeth are not only my great friends and trusted colleagues but they are also fantastic Founders.

Thanks to my fellow seed investors @ Conjur :

  • Rich Levandov and Brady Bohrmann @ Avalon at truly exceptional. My experience with Avalon over a number of startups has been consistently fantastic. Every time Rich and Brady are faced with a tough decision – they consistently do the right thing for the company and for the Founders – Rich and Brady define the term “Founder Friendly”
  • Sunil Dhaliwal @ Amplify Partners invested in Conjur just before he moved to California – Conjur was one of his first investments @ Amplify. Sunil’s steady support – especially through the acquisition – has been greatly appreciated.

I have a passion for great software and the amazing “10Xers” that populate the best software companies. Kevin is one of the best software engineers with whom I’ve had the privilege to work. I first met Kevin back in the mid-1990’s – where we both worked @ Trilogy. Kevin’s skills @ Trilogy were legendary (the bar was insanely high). We’ve worked together many times since then and over the past 20+ years and it’s always a pleasure for me to watch the world come to recognize Kevin as truly one of the best in software.

Posted in Enterprise Software, Entrepreneurship, Financing, Founders, Information Technology, Innovation, Start-Ups, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Founder Collective

I wrote here about my decision in May 2014 to limit my focus in Koa Labs to go “all in” on Tamr, referencing it as “the best way to non-incrementally improve Cambridge/Boston’s start-up infrastructure is to create more strong, independent companies that remain independent in the long term.” As Tamr continues to grow, I believe this principle even more strongly today. My great friend Christopher Ahlberg has been a powerful role model as he’s been builing Recorded Future into the leader in cyber threat intelligence.  Christopher’s mentorship and the support of all my Tamr stakeholders (especially Rich Miner, Peter Barris, Jerry Held, Lisa Coca and Mike Stonebraker) has been a powerful inspiration for me.  
Not surprisingly, as Tamr grows it’s also naturally taking more of my time and needing even more of my focus going forward — leaving me even less time and bandwidth to support the Cambridge ecosystem directly. I’m proud of the portfolio that we’ve built at Koa, and have been looking for indirect ways to continue my support but limit the time/overhead required. Over the past 5 years, I have increasingly relied on my good friends and trusted colleagues at Founder Collective as a way for me to continue to support first-time founders and the Cambridge startup ecosystem  while preserving my focus on Tamr.  I’m thrilled to formalize this transition by joining as a “Founder Partner” at Founder Collective, a role that is ideally configured for people like me that have a full time startup gig but want to help entrepreneurs. David’s formal announcement is here.

The Koa Labs portfolio is going strong with great companies such as Recorded Future, Upstart, PillPack, Desktop Metal, Twine Health, Openbay, Kuvee and Conjur. While I’m not making direct new investments, I will continue to support these and other companies (although most of them have far outgrown the kind of founder mojo that I bring to the table).

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Financing, Founders, Start-Ups, Venture Funding | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

eShares is a no-brainer

If you are running an early stage company or if you are an employee at an early stage company – I strongly recommend that you have your CFO/Admin folks adopt eShares for equity management.  If you send them the following link – they will get a special deal for people who read my blog : https://esharesinc.com/koa

I use eShares myself @ Tamr and > 10 of the companies in my portfolio @ Koa have adopted eShares.   All of my companies that adopted eShares can’t imagine what they did beforehand.  It really is a no-brainer.

I wrote a blog post about why eShares is so important – link is here.

If you don’t believe me – then listen to Fred Wilson @ UnionSquare Ventures also uses eShares and feels the same way that I do – “no brainer” – his post is here.

Hope that you give it a try – totally worth it and I bet you’ll find you can’t imagine what you did before eShares – I know I can’t.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’m not a fan of convertible notes…

I’ve been asked for opinions on convertible notes in seed rounds consistently for the past 10+ years.  I’m going to just say it again.  I am NOT a fan of convertible notes in seed rounds – I will always defer to founders wishes – but I strongly prefer to avoid convertible notes in seed rounds.  The reasons are many and varied – Fred Wilson articulates them very clearly in his post here.   I strongly agree with Fred and believe that it’s time for entrepreneurs to start with default of a priced round.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Financing, Founders, Uncategorized, Venture Funding | Tagged , , | 1 Comment