July 31, 2021
Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Hello, and welcome to Pipeline.
I'm excited to announce that I'll be doing a special Protocol Pipeline event on Aug.10 called "Going Global" exploring how tech companies expand internationally. I'll be talking to some superstars from the industry: Accel's Rich Wong; Atomic founder-in-residence (and early Uber city launcher) Swathy Prithivi; and Oliver Jay, Asana's global revenue head who also launched Dropbox's APAC offices. Sign up here to join us on Aug. 10 at 9 a.m. PT.
On to the newsletter! This week: the buzzword hype cycle, how to build a SaaS org, and how athletes are upping their game when it comes to tech investing.
These days it's not uncommon to see a funding round with a string of celebrity names attached, but it's not just Hollywood A-listers like Ashton Kutcher, Will Smith and Jared Leto who are running the show.
Professional athletes have entered the investing arena to compete for the same deals. And some have already made a mark in the VC world.
But those athletes are the 1% — the household names at the top of their field who have the money (and investing teams behind them) to match their success.
For the other 99% of athletes, including folks like Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, there's an interest in startup investing, but an education and access barrier to getting in a deal. That's where The Players' Impact, a 4-year-old 501(c)6 nonprofit, steps in.
While a lot of celebrity investing is about startup promotion, TPI takes the opposite approach. Its athletes remain anonymous to their startups and TPI coordinates the investment through an SPV, or special purpose vehicle.
Venture isn't a bad next act for athletes. Former San Francisco 49ers QB Joe Montana is a regular around YC Demo Day, and his firm, Liquid 2 Ventures, is rumored to be raising $100 million for a third fund. "The earlier you start thinking about these things and learning about them, the better off you're going to be longer term," Deforge said. "When you're transitioning out of your sport, you may not feel as lost in what's next because you're getting exposure."
Singapore is fast becoming a global hotbed of tech innovation. It's easy to see why. Nearly 80 of the world's top 100 tech firms have set up outposts there, including Google, Facebook, Stripe, Salesforce and homegrown unicorns like the super-app Grab.
Join Protocol's Biz Carson for a conversation with Atomic's Swathy Prithivi, Accel's Rich Wong and Asana's Oliver Jay during our upcoming event: Going Global: How Tech Companies Can Expand Internationally August 10 at 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET Learn More
Eric Tarczynski has a skill a lot of VCs envy: scouting outlier tech talent early. He's the founder and general partner of Contrary Capital, a firm known for identifying early-career talent and investing in their startups. Its portfolio includes companies like new unicorn Vise, Anduril, DoorDash, Hallow and Rubrik.
What's your best piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
My best piece of advice to aspiring founders is simple: Heed little of the advice you're given at the idea stage. At the earliest stages, ideas are so fragile, and generally people sharing their perspectives know very little about the space you're tackling. Instead, go do. That's how you learn, and within days you'll be running circles around the people trying to give you "advice."
What product or service are you totally, even irrationally, loyal to?
I'm irrationally loyal to my Nordica Dobermann GP 130 ski boots. I grew up in a rural town with a small mountain 30 seconds away. So as you might imagine, most people start skiing when they're 3 or 4. I grew up ski racing, and in ninth grade, my parents splurged and I got my first pair of ski racing boots that had these Peter-Pan-esque insoles — boots are the most important part of skiing, after all. I fell in love. Fifteen years later, I still wear them (they're destroyed and rusted) and can't find it in myself to get new ones.
What problem do you want to see a startup solve?
I'd love to invest in a company that makes device management, basic enterprise security, and remote data deletion 10x easier. Current solutions don't easily work out of the box, or at least well enough to be adopted by everyone with a laptop.
What book do you think every startup founder should read?
"Seeing Like a State" by James C. Scott addresses the concept of "legibility" in the context of government. I think most startups are also solving legibility problems for businesses and consumers alike — the book provides a number of interesting mental models and is a great read.
What's one of the worst predictions you've ever made?
Professionally, I tend to not make predictions. We're all fallible. Personally, my prediction that the Minnesota Vikings would win a Super Bowl is still one that's waiting to play out.
Business leaders say they choose Singapore for its modern tech infrastructure, strong government support, robust pipeline of talent and pro-business regulations (the World Bank ranks it No. 2 in the world for ease of doing business). Plus, its location in the heart of Southeast Asia serves as a launchpad into the bustling Asian-Pacific market.
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