April 25, 2020
Image: Christopher Michel / Flickr
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Pipeline! I'm Biz Carson, Protocol's venture capital and startup reporter, and this is my new weekly column about that community. Thank you to everyone who read the first edition and sent feedback. This is week two, and if you like what you see, sign up to get this in your inbox.
Anyway, on with business. This week: FAST deal-making, Bill Gurley bows out, and the famous VC who is cosplaying as a Sherlock Holmes character on Clubhouse.
There's a lot of talk about how startups are being forced to adapt and experiment with new business models amid COVID-19. In stark contrast, I hear more about venture capitalists falling back on their old networks and pattern-matching right now than I do about new innovations within VC firms.
NFX's new FAST program launched last week, and it is … shall we say, rather different than your regular seed fundraising process. It's giving founders transparent deal terms and a decision in nine days — and, perhaps most surprising, it promises no ghosting.
But is nine days enough to make a sound judgement on spending the next seven to 10 years working with someone? NFX has a team of 16 to sort through the applications and conduct due diligence, but a lot of seed-stage investing is about picking the right person.
So far, it hasn't closed a deal but Currier is expecting the program to double NFX's normal deal rate of investing in 15 companies a year. The bigger goal? Making this the "new normal" when it comes to transparency in venture investing.
What's your quarantine binge watch?
I just got into watching "The Last Dance," the Michael Jordan documentary. I really wish that they would just release it all.
What's your favorite part of a startup's pitch?
I love the vision part, imagining what could be possible. When I meet entrepreneurs, it's kind of like seeing into the future.
What was your first check?
Nearpod. It's a student engagement platform that actually allows teachers to facilitate lots of lessons. As you can imagine, they're taking off right now! I did this deal around 2012, soon after the iPad was launched. The idea was to basically create an operating system for teachers to use iPads in the classroom. Fast-forward to today, it's not that we have iPads in the classrooms, but because we actually have to do remote learning, this is a way to deliver lessons in a remote environment.
(For more from Garvey about what's happening in edtech, check out this Protocol interview with her.)
What's something new you've learned about yourself in the last three months?
I kind of already knew this, but it's just really reinforced how much of an introvert I am. I'm actually already burned out from Zoom calls and Zoom cocktail hours and Zoom happy hours. I've just learned that even in a virtual world that my introvert-ness can kick in.
What's under-hyped and over-hyped right now?
Under-hyped: Jobs in the middle-skills sector. I do think coming out of this people are going to look for pathways into new job sectors, especially ones that are in demand, like health care.
Over-hyped: Delivery. I think once this is over, people are going to really crave to go back to restaurants and especially to support small businesses. I think that a lot of people in this time, including myself, have also found a renewed joy in cooking and making homemade meals, and that's going to be a thing again.
Thanks for reading the second edition of Protocol Pipeline. If you like what you're reading, sign up here to get it in your inbox. Send story tips (and a Clubhouse invite) to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll be dreaming up my own Sherlock pseudonym until then. Otherwise, stay safe, stay healthy and stay home. See you next week.